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Thompson Center: The Latest Architecture and News

Helmut Jahn's Postmodernist Thompson Center in Chicago Sold and Saved from Demolition

After years of ongoing demolition threats and renovation proposals, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has announced that the state has finally reached a deal to sell Helmut Jahn's iconic Thompson Center to Real Estate company The Prime Group, who will carry out renovation works without any demolitions to the structure. The newly proposed design preserves the structure's original design, but implements new features that improve its thermal and acoustic conditions, and highlights its atrium as the "jewel of the building".

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Thompson Center Design Competition Announces Winners

"Public Pool" by David Rader, Jerry Johnson, Ryan Monteleagre, and Matt Zelensek of Perkins&Will, Chicago. Image Courtesy of Thompson Center Design Competition
"Public Pool" by David Rader, Jerry Johnson, Ryan Monteleagre, and Matt Zelensek of Perkins&Will, Chicago. Image Courtesy of Thompson Center Design Competition

The Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Architectural Club have announced the three winning designs for the 2021 Chicago Prize Competition, which called for innovative adaptive reuse proposals that would grant a new life to the iconic Illinois Thompson Center. The winning proposals designed by Perkins&Will, Eastman Lee Architects, and Solomon Cordwell Buenz represent alternative visions for the future of the Postmodernist landmark.

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Chicago Architecture Center and Chicago Architecture Club Announce Seven Finalists of 2021 Thompson Center Design Competition

The Chicago Architecture Center and Chicago Architecture Club have announced the seven finalists of the Thompson Center Design Competition, which called for new and innovative visions for the Illinois Thompson Center designed by Helmut Jahn in 1984. The winning design proposal will be announced during the opening of the September 14 pop-up exhibition of finalists work at the Chicago Architecture Center, and will run through October.

Chicago Architecture Center and Chicago Architecture Club Announce Seven Finalists of 2021 Thompson Center Design CompetitionChicago Architecture Center and Chicago Architecture Club Announce Seven Finalists of 2021 Thompson Center Design CompetitionChicago Architecture Center and Chicago Architecture Club Announce Seven Finalists of 2021 Thompson Center Design CompetitionChicago Architecture Center and Chicago Architecture Club Announce Seven Finalists of 2021 Thompson Center Design Competition+ 32

Helmut Jahn, Architect of Chicago’s Thompson Center Passes Away at 81

Chicago’s most prolific architect, Helmut Jahn has passed away on Saturday afternoon in a cycling accident. He was struck by two vehicles while riding his bicycle in Campton Hills, in the Chicago suburbs. The German-American designer is best known for his postmodern Thompson Center, currently under threat of demolition and United Airlines Terminal 1 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

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"I Prefer When Form Follows Force": an Interview with 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.”

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

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.

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

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.