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Helmut Jahn

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Modern Master

By Andrea Mills

Photography by Kevin Penczak

05.29.18

At the edge of Grant Park, legendary architect Helmut Jahn offers up an elegant addition to the skyline—and to his legacy.

The know-how to leave things away requires much more effort than adding things. To some degree, when you look at the work of Mies [van der Rohe], that is something he did too,” says award-winning architect Helmut Jahn. After moving to Chicago from Germany in the 1960s to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology—a school long associated with the Mies aesthetic—Jahn landed a job working alongside Gene Summers on the design of McCormick Place. Jahn’s most visible projects here are the Thompson Center and the steel-and-glass arches of O’Hare’s international terminal, but his current local endeavor may become his most popular. 1000M, a condo tower that will occupy a stretch of South Michigan Avenue overlooking Grant Park, should be completed in 2020. It will bookend the historic towers to the north and make its own mark on the city’s iconic skyline with its height and unique shape.

Because of the curves and angles, every unit has a spectacular view, with equally impeccable interiors thanks to designer Kara Mann. The technical systems, materials and technological advances employed here are radically different from when Jahn started his career, hence his disdain for comparisons with history. “The main task in architecture today is not just to build monuments, but also to serve social issues,” says Jahn. To wit, he is working on affordable, highly designed housing in Berlin with the intention of changing the demographic of the area. “Those types of developments are often not innovative or important enough to become convincing, but that is where the work is,” explains Jahn. “Doing what is easy will never produce architecture that is new or progressive.”