Famed Architect Helmut Jahn Dies In Bike Accident

John R. Thompson Center
View of the Thompson Center in Downtown Chicago on May, 2019. The building was designed by famed architect Helmut Jahn, who died Saturday. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
John R. Thompson Center
View of the Thompson Center in Downtown Chicago on May, 2019. The building was designed by famed architect Helmut Jahn, who died Saturday. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Famed Architect Helmut Jahn Dies In Bike Accident

World famous Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn died in Campton Hills in a biking accident, authorities confirmed.

In a news release, Campton Hills police say Jahn failed to stop at a stop sign at Burlington and Old LaFox Road in the far west suburbs, and was struck by two vehicles Saturday afternoon. One driver was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the second vehicle was not injured.

Jahn, who lived in St. Charles, was 81.

The German-born architect is most well-known in Chicago for designing at age 39 the James R. Thompson Center, a postmodern building that wowed the architectural scene upon its opening in 1985 but has become a drain on the state for its much-needed costly repairs. Illinois is in the process of selling the building.

Jahn created other notable buildings in Chicago, including the United Airlines Terminal 1 at O’Hare and the Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago, a glass-domed shaped building. He has won numerous awards for designs he and his firm made for buildings across the world. Other buildings he’s known for include Two Liberty Place in Philadelphia and the Sony Center in Berlin.

He was born in Germany in 1940, and came to Chicago to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology under modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He began his career at CF Murphy Associates, which he would later lead as it was renamed Murphy/Jahn and then in 2012 JAHN.

In an interview with Archinect in 2017, Jahn described his evolution away from his modernist mentor, van der Rohe, and his then current design ethos like this:

“The Mies stuff was the beginning, what we do right now is not — God knows what Mies would have done!” he told Archinect. “We believe in urban relationships. We believe in the function of buildings. We strive to use technology in an innovative way that we can see the results of…What we then fundamentally build is an integration of those urban, architectural, and engineering interests. And we believe in change and we believe in the future.”

This story has been corrected to update the proper name for the James R. Thompson Center.