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Thompson Center: The Latest Architecture and News

"I Prefer When Form Follows Force": an Interview with Helmut Jahn

09:30 - 10 October, 2018
"I Prefer When Form Follows Force": an Interview with Helmut Jahn , Courtesy of Helmut Jahn
Courtesy of Helmut Jahn

In the last few years something has happened to architects’ willingness to strive for originality. The boldest visions now often come from the old guard of architecture - and frankly, I enjoy conversations with them much more. The current insistence on having common ground pushed so many younger architects into a zombie-like copycat state of mind. But to me, common ground means not to think alike – then there is space for discourse.

My most recent conversation with Helmut Jahn at his Chicago office is a case in point. “Architecture is all about going with your gut. I prefer when form follows force rather than function,” he told me. His distinguished career has been one of twists and turns, and he is not planning to give up exploring new ideas any time soon. His 1985 quadrant-in-plan Thompson Center reinvented a mundane government typology into a soaring public place, with its curved colored glass facade decisively welcoming a postmodernist period to Chicago (one we thought had finished, but now seems to be ongoing, encompassing all of post-Modern movements as its mere shades and variations.) Jahn’s architecture shook and modernized a number of global cities, and with time and experience, what began as a rebellion against Mies’s “less is more” modus operandi matured into nuanced, measured, though unquestionably gutsy, production of towers, airports, convention centers, headquarters, and, most importantly, public spaces. As Jahn himself says, “...anything you don’t need is a benefit. Not only you have to have less things but with the things you have left you have to do more.”

Courtesy of Helmut Jahn Courtesy of Helmut Jahn Courtesy of Helmut Jahn Courtesy of Helmut Jahn + 27

New Images Released of Proposed Skyscraper Addition to Chicago's Thompson Center

14:00 - 4 May, 2018
New Images Released of Proposed Skyscraper Addition to Chicago's Thompson Center, Courtesy of visualizedconcepts
Courtesy of visualizedconcepts

Landmarks Illinois has released new images of a proposed radical extension to the James R, Thompson Center in Chicago. The images seek to portray the building’s versatility to be privately redeveloped as a mixed-use hub, featuring an eye-catching “super tower” at the southwest corner of the site, as proposed by the scheme’s original architect Helmut Jahn.

The new images follow on from a previous story we covered last year, detailing a 110-story tower proposed by Jahn in response to local plans to demolish the postmodern building. The latest images underlie a similar goal of demonstrating the potential for the Thompson Center to be protected and expanded, in response to its listing on the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois in 2017 and 2018. The Postmodernist piece lies in a precarious situation, with an administrative interest in selling the building and replacing it a high-rise development.

Courtesy of visualizedconcepts Courtesy of visualizedconcepts Helmut Jahn's previous proposal for a 110 tower beside the Thompson Center. Image © JAHN. Via Crain's Courtesy of visualizedconcepts + 5

Documentary Hopes to Save Chicago's "Starship," the Thompson Center, from Demolition

09:30 - 28 November, 2017

In the midst of the tall, rectilinear skyscrapers which make up downtown Chicago appears a short, sloped glass curtain wall, topped by a protruding truncated cylinder structure: Helmut Jahn’s Thompson Center. Opened in 1985, the building was to be home for a variety of agencies of the State of Illinois, and its design was a play off of the traditional American statehouse, updated with glass walls symbolizing government transparency and an immense atrium evoking the atrium spaces found in most United States’ statehouses. The interior spaces, however, stirred further contention with the public. Unconventional red, blue, and white paints coat the interior elements—a design choice many believed to be provocative and even jarring.