Remembering Helmut Jahn, FAIA



Helmut Jahn, FAIA, has been a fixture in Chicago’s architecture community for nearly 50 years; his work locally has undeniably changed Chicago itself and has redefined how design excellence plays a role in the shape and texture of our city. AIA Chicago recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, and we have recognized his firm’s work in myriad Design Excellence Awards throughout the years. His work in Chicago, from the James R. Thompson Center to his campus projects at IIT and the University of Chicago; convention centers in Doha and towering residential buildings in New York City; his firm has created a body of work that is bold and boundary-pushing. He was elevated to Fellowship—AIA’s highest distinction—in 1987.

We are sad to have lost such a fixture in the profession, but we are also grieving the loss of a friend—AIA Chicago has worked in the offices with JAHN at 35 E Wacker for more than a decade, and his presence will be missed and treasured. His entire team has been involved in AIA Chicago’s success and has volunteered their time to help uplift architects at all stages of their careers, and our thoughts are with them and Helmut’s family and friends.

Franz Schulz penned a beautiful tribute to Helmut on the occasion of his Lifetime Achievement Award, describing his major achievements in architecture and in the profession, beginning from Helmut's youth. "Among the factors that motivated Helmut Jahn, FAIA, to study architecture was the degree of destruction visited upon his hometown of Allersberg, a suburb of Nuremberg, during World War II. Born in 1940, Jahn was old enough to witness the ruination and, no less important, to grow up amid the often low-budget architecture that was erected in Nuremberg following the end of hostilities. Germany did not recover from the war as readily or creatively as it did following World War I. If there was anything that might have pointed toward a successful career as a designer, it would have to rise from within Jahn himself rather than from his environment." —Franz Schulz

You can watch the video tribute to Helmut Jahn's legacy, produced by our friends at Black Spectacles. 



"Echoing Mies van der Rohe’s edict, “Build don’t talk”, Helmut Jahn continues Mies’ legacy of innovation and design excellence through example. His completed works inform and inspire a new generation of architects to push the envelope even further. Helmut’s legacy will endure beyond the buildings he has created through the countless mentees who permeate the profession as firm leaders in Chicago and beyond. Helmut Jahn has truly advanced the art and science of architecture by creating timeless work that continues to inspire through the power of design." —Robert Forest, FAIA

Read Tributes to Helmut Jahn

Architectural Record

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Sun-Times


The Guardian

The New York Times

Scuttlebutt Sailing News