The legacy of the late Helmut Jhan is the topic of a new exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC). Titled Helmut Jann: Life + Architecture, the program was quickly organized in the wake of the architect's tragic death in a cycling crash in May. It opened in the center's second-floor Skyscraper Gallery on Friday, July 23, and will run through October.
"Helmut Jahn and Chicago were made for one another," said Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of the CAC, in a release. "Helmut’s larger-than-life persona and his inventive and surprisingly original buildings remade Chicago in the 1980s. His brash designs and relentless pursuit of excellence invigorated Chicago, helping the architectural community move confidently beyond mid-century modernism. Helmut was, in turn, embraced by 'the city of big shoulders.'"
The installation features an outpouring of tributes and remembrances from Jahn's contemporaries, as well as an impressive collection of building models on loan from JAHN (plus Helmut's own "Flash Gordon" sailboat). Visitors can learn about 140 of Jahn's projects across the globe and hometown creations like the United Airlines Terminal at O'Hare, the residential high-rise slated for 1000 S. Michigan Avenue, and the threatened James R. Thompson Center.
"Our feeling was that we should honor Jahn's place so the general public can understand how important he was, both in terms of his talent and his success but also his circumstance," senior curator Michael Wood told Urbanize. "He reaches back to the days of C.F. Murphy. He was just this lynchpin and was so productive in every decade."
According to Wood, Helmut Jann: Life + Architecture doesn't try to be the definitive scholarly retrospective on Helmut Jahn and his work, but rather captures the current moment. "It's a celebration," he said.
The curators hope the exhibit will also continue discussions around the Thompson Center, which the State of Illinois intends to sell to developers. The CAC is teaming up with the Chicago Architecture Club for an idea competition for adapting the iconic postmodern building. The winning designs will be on display at the center later this summer.
The Chicago architectural legacy of the late great Helmut Jahn [Urbanize Chicago]