Helmut Jahn

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Helmut Jahn
Helmut Jahn.jpg
Born(1940-01-04)January 4, 1940
Zirndorf, Bavaria, Germany
DiedMay 8, 2021(2021-05-08) (aged 81)
Nationality German
Occupation Architect
Website www.jahn-us.com

Helmut Jahn (January 4, 1940 – May 8, 2021) was a German-American architect, known for buildings such as the Sony Center on the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany; the Messeturm in Frankfurt, Germany; One Liberty Place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (formerly the tallest building in Philadelphia); and the Suvarnabhumi Airport, an international airport in Bangkok, Thailand.


His recent projects included 50 West Street, a residential tower in New York City in 2016 and the ThyssenKrupp Test Tower in Rottweil, Germany in 2017.

Life and career

An illuminated, suspended, oval roof covers the 102 m span of the central Forum of the Sony Center, Berlin. SonyCenterAtNight.jpg
An illuminated, suspended, oval roof covers the 102 m span of the central Forum of the Sony Center, Berlin.

Jahn was born Jan. 4, 1940 in Zirndorf, near Nuremberg, Germany. [1] His father Wilhelm Anton Jahn was a schoolteacher in special education, his mother Karolina Wirth a housewife. [2] [3] Jahn grew up watching the reconstruction of the city, which had been largely destroyed by Allied bombing campaigns. [4]

He studied architecture at the Technical University of Munich from 1960 to 1965, [5] and worked with Peter C. von Seidlein for a year after graduation. [1] In 1966, he went to Chicago to further study architecture under Myron Goldsmith and Fazlur Khan at the Illinois Institute of Technology on a Rotary Scholarship, earning a Master's degree in 1967. [3]


Jahn joined Charles Francis Murphy's architecture firm, C. F. Murphy Associates, in 1967 and was appointed Executive Vice President and Director of Planning and Design of the firm in 1973.[ citation needed ] He took sole control in 1981, renaming the firm Murphy/Jahn (even though Murphy had retired).[ citation needed ] Murphy died in 1985.


Jahn was killed on his bicycle on May 8, 2021 in the suburban Campton Hills. [6] The collision happened near his home and horse farm in St. Charles, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. [7] [8] [9]

Architectural style and influences

Generally inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, yet opposed to the doctrinal application of modernism by his followers, in 1978, Jahn became the eighth member of the Chicago Seven. His architectural style shifted from the modernism of the Miesian tradition to a postmodernist one with high-tech stylizations. [10] Jahn established his reputation in 1985 with the State of Illinois Center in Chicago which prompted him to be dubbed "Flash Gordon". [11] In addition to the main seat in Chicago, the company has offices in Berlin and Shanghai.

On October 26, 2012, Helmut Jahn renamed Murphy/Jahn to simply JAHN.[ citation needed ]

Completed projects

Auraria Library Aurarialibrary.JPG
Auraria Library
James R. Thompson Center James R. Thompson Center.JPG
James R. Thompson Center
O'Hare Airport - interior view of the connecting tunnel between Concourses B & C of Terminal 1, with Michael Hayden's neon installation Sky's the Limit (1987). OHare Airport Terminal One B to C Tunnel.jpg
O'Hare Airport – interior view of the connecting tunnel between Concourses B & C of Terminal 1, with Michael Hayden's neon installation Sky's the Limit (1987).
Bank of America Tower (1990) Bofatower.jpg
Bank of America Tower (1990)
One America Plaza OneAmericaPlazaSDSept10.jpg
One America Plaza
1999 K Street, NW in Washington, D.C. 1999 K Street NW.JPG
1999 K Street, NW in Washington, D.C.
Facade of Neues Kranzler Eck, Berlin 191017 Neues Kranzler-Eck.jpg
Facade of Neues Kranzler Eck, Berlin

Following is a partial list of completed projects:

In his native town of Nuremberg, however, a project by Jahn was rejected by a citizens' referendum in 1996. [50]

Select awards

Personal life

Jahn was interested in yachting, and in the late 1990s owned at least three yachts named Flash Gordon (one of his nicknames). [57] In 1995, Jahn's Flash Gordon 2 won the annual Chicago to Mackinac Race, the oldest freshwater yacht race in the world. [58] In 1998, Jahn invited his fellow Vietnam War veteran, George Henry, to race with him in the Waterbury Channel Open. In 1997, Flash Gordon 3 won the Admiral's Cup. [57] [59] In 2017 the Flash Gordon 6 team captured its third straight North American Championship. [60]

He married Deborah Ann Lampe, an interior designer, in December 1970. Their son Evan was born in 1978. [2]


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