AISC Remembers Helmut Jahn

(c) Udo Hesse / Courtesy Murphy/Jahn

Helmut Jahn, a German-American architect known for his use of structural steel in designing several of Chicago’s modernist landmarks as well as iconic buildings around the world, died Saturday at the age of 81. Early in Jahn’s career, he designed the State of Illinois Center, now known as the James R. Thompson Center. The building’s design, though polarizing, made Jahn’s reputation around the world and set the stage for his nearly 40-year career.

“Helmut Jahn's long career was so fruitful, it's easy to forget how many iconic structures he created,” AISC president Charlie Carter said. “The sad news of his death has included many reminders of his prolific influence on architecture and society. So many of his ideas were built by our industry and we mourn his loss as we celebrate his legacy.”

In addition to the Thompson Center, Jahn is best known for designing United Airlines Terminal 1 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. AISC awarded Jahn a Special Achievement Award in 1999 for this work, which “inspired both airport design worldwide and the growing use of exposed structural steel.” The Xerox Center (now known as 55 West Monroe), McCormick Place, and an addition to the Chicago Board of Trade are a few other influential Chicago designs of Jahn’s.

Outside of Chicago, Jahn is known for One Liberty Place in Philadelphia, the Sony Center in Berlin, and the Messeturm in Frankfurt, Germany, the latter of which was the tallest building in Europe when it opened. 

Read more about Jahn’s legacy in his obituary in The New York Times