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Helmut Jahn

Drawings
September 14 – October 31, 1999

 
 
Helmut Jahn
4,000 working drawings
Installation designed by the architect
Note:
Design/Completion = built
Design = not built
Courtesy of the architect
 
Helmut Jahn
McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
Design/Completion
1968/1971


Jahn cites this commercial exhibition hall as the start of his career and the culmination of his apprenticeship with Gene Summers, Mies' closest assistant and partner at the firm C. F. Murphy. Jahn describes the building as a modern Acropolis, like Mies' National Gallery in Berlin or the unbuilt scheme for Bacardi, both of which Summers worked on."The adaptation of materials and construction concepts, which were less refined due to the nature of the building's use, lead especially in the steel structure to a matter-of-fact use of shapes and connections, which points to later Hi-Tech work." McCormick Place typifies a series of works Jahn was to conceive throughout the seventies,buildings he refers to as "Mat" buildings, low (2 or 3 stories) and wide structures whose form was developed internally, namely through function and the available technology. Buildings of this type include libraries, post offices, athletic facilities, exhibition halls and suburban office parks, notably Rustoleum and W.W. Grainger. Many of the mid-seventies projects Jahn refers to as "edge" architecture, mostly freestanding, suburban structures without boundaries imposed by other buildings.
 
Helmut Jahn
H. Roe Bartle Exhibition Hall
Kansas City, Missouri
Design/Completion 1972/1976

 
Helmut Jahn
Town House
Design 1973

 
Helmut Jahn
RLM House
Eagle River, Wisconsin
Design/Completion 1980/1982


Although Jahn has made designs for several residential developments, he has only done a few freestanding, single-unit projects. Of these, only the RLM House was realized. As a 30' x 30' cube, gridded in three-foot modules and perched on stilts, it is meant to distinguish itself from its natural setting and become an ideal object in the landscape. Designed for a wooded slope with lake views, it was a vacation home with the understanding that it would later become a year-round residence. The cube form is reiterated in a grid that is maintained throughout the interior through the use of lattice and open areas and a complex mesh of solid and open panels.
 
Helmut Jahn
Aspen House
Aspen, Colorado
Design 1981


Although the Aspen House makes formal concessions toward the Victorian cottage it was meant to replace, it does so using idealized geometric forms (cylinder, octagon, triangle). A skylight over a central shaft running through all three stories of the house provides natural daylight to all floors.
 
Helmut Jahn
One South Wacker
Chicago, IL
Design/Completion 1979/1982

 
Helmut Jahn
Michigan City Public Library
Michigan City, Indiana
Design/Completion 1974/1977

 
Helmut Jahn
Kemper Arena
Kansas City, Missouri
Design/Completion 1972/1974


This one-story multi-purpose indoor arena has a seating capacity of 17,000. It has two main components: a substructure that holds seating and the arena floor, and a superstructure comprised of the building enclosure and seating on its interior. THis series of drawings focuses on the truss system which supports the superstructure. Supporting the building using an exterior truss system allows for a continuous unbroken interior space, one without columns. This provides maximum flexibility. This would prove invaluable to Jahn's career from McCormick Place through to his present-day projects. In the case of Kemper Arena, as with many of Jahn's projects, structural components, in this case the truss exoskeleton, become an important aesthetic component.
 
Helmut Jahn
Rustoleum Headquarters
Vernon HIlls, IL
Design/Completion 1976/1978

 
Helmut Jahn
First Source Center
South Bend, IN
Design/Completion 1978/1982


This is Jahn's first mega-structure or block-building, notable for the transparent mediation between interior and exterior as glass facade and supporting structure are united to create less of a skin and more of a shell. This multi-use urban development occupying a city block consists of a 300 room hotel, First Source Bank offices, a 27,000 sq. foot public atrium, and a 520 car garage. Its abstract form was generated by the shape of the lot and the desired flow of pedestrian traffic. The interlocking forms are complex only at the level of the shell The interior remains free-flowing and open. This would serve as a significant precursor to Jahn's later trussed, glass, shell structures such as The State of Illinois Building and Neues Kranzler Eck.
 
Helmut Jahn
Chicago Board of Trade Addition
Chicago, IL
Design/Completion 1979/1982


This project, along with One South Wacker, and the Xerox building, represent Jahn's earliest mature work in Chicago's downtown. Unlike the Xerox building, One South Wacker and Chicago Board of Trade addition make overt historical references, in particular to 1920s Art Deco buildings. In the case of One South Wacker, the impetus was scale. Due to soil conditions, this structure was kept to 40 floors and its scale essentially makes it a contemporary adaptation of a 1920s office tower. The most striking aspect of the design is the profile of the building which reveals three dramatic setbacks. Chicago Board of Trade Addition was designed to function with the existing building as one unit. Art Deco motifs such as the scalloped entrance were derived directly from elements of the original building. The issue of pure geometry versus historical references as the genesis of architectural form would be a crucial issue for Jahn throughout the 1980s.
 
Helmut Jahn
11 Diagonal Street
Johannesburg, South Africa
Design/COmpletion 1981/1984


For this project, Jahn developed a series of numbered sketches before returning to a thought process similar in simplicity and directness to the Xerox building. In contrast to the numbered drawings, which seemed to have been generated without reference to the site or the client, the sketches ultimately leading to the basic form for 11 Diagonal Street are a conscious allusion to the diamond trade, a major business of the developer's parent company. Like the idea for the Xerox building, Diagonal Street is a form made complex through subtraction. The project started with a rectangular slab from which Jahn sliced away the corners at varying oblique angles. The complex faceted form would later be realized with a mullionless glass surface.
 
Helmut Jahn
Television City
New York, NY
Design 1984


A waterfront redevelopment consisting of a series of several high-rises and one office tower, built over a period of years on a site between Midtown and the Upper Westside of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River. Several of the drawings feature detailed renderings of the high-rise tops. These signature elements are variations on the interaction between basic geometric forms--triangle, circle, square,and hexagon.
 
Helmut Jahn
750 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY
Design/Completion 1984/1989


A 30-story office complex with a retail streetscape all above a subway station. The design sketches reveal a wrestling with primary forms that interlock with a central cylinder. Dome, polygon, rooked cylinder were all possible candidates for a crown before Jahn settled on the stepped and nested cylinders, an idea which he developed for the earlier unrealized 60 Wall Street.
 
Helmut Jahn
San Diego Convention Center
San Diego , CA
Design 1984

 
Helmut Jahn
St. Mary's Athletic Facility
South Bend, IN

 
Helmut Jahn
Argonne Program Support Facility
Argonne, IL
Design/Completion 1978/1981


Office and support space for the Dept. of Energy and Argonne National Laboratories. Before deciding to use the circular road network as a cue for the building's shape, Jahn wrestled with the initial challenge of situating a square building on a circular site. In the final plan, a southern section of the circular structure was cut away and stepped back to allow daylight into the building's core.
 
Helmut Jahn
Area 2 Police Headquarters
Chicago, IL
Design/Completion 197/1982


This structure is an archetypal Mat building. This multipurpose police center features a mix of public and professional uses: conference rooms, detention areas, courts and vehicle maintenance. The range of configurations is all within a 660 foot continuous structure.
 
Helmut Jahn
State of Illinois Center
Chicago, IL
Design/Completion 1979/1985


Although designed to have a distinct character relative to its neighbors--the archetypes of municipal buildings, Daley Center and City Hall--the State of Illinois Center has a monumental urban scale announcing it as a government building. The truncated glass cylinder projects above the building mass, creating a top that makes a clearly identifiable statement on Chicago's skyline. Despite its futurist gleam, this building references centralization and domed government buildings throughout history. Jahn specifically cited the Federal Building of Henry Ives Cobb 1889-1905,which was demolished to make room for the Mies-designed Federal Buildings a few blocks away. According to Jahn, "the abstract form of the building derives its meaning from conceptual, historic and urban references and from their synthesis with today's materials and techniques. This synthesis of many influences surpasses any attempt to use geometry or historical references as the generator for form in Architecture."
 
Helmut Jahn
Skyscrapers
(early 1980s)


Jahn's sympathy for contemporary building methods and materials and the extent to which he aestheticizes the structural component of his work, clearly mark him as a modernist. This is certainly the case in his Mat buildings of the 1970s. Jahn's skyscraper work of the 1980s, however, was informed by a more baroque sensibility which on the one hand displayed a reverence for Palladian geometry and a classical approach to generating form and on the other a reverence for various strains of an historical modernism, from the fanciful curvilinear play of Art Deco, to the solemnity of Mies, to the celebratory structures of Constructivism. This eclecticism subsumed within towers of mirrored glass and colored steel would go by the name of Post-Modernism and Jahn would be one of its primary examples. This small series of drawings , which is a review of projects from the early 1980s, summarizes the directions his thoughts would roam throughout the decade.
 
Helmut Jahn
Humana
Louisville, KY
Design 1982


This entry for the hospital management's headquarters was one of four runners-up. The physical configuration of this office tower was meant to provide an alternative to the typical office building of identically stacked floors. The design went through several stages, becoming progressively more radical. Various traditional corporate high-rise structures gave way to an octagonal tower wrapped in a spiraling outer shell of four story atria.
 
Helmut Jahn
362 West Street
Durban, South Africa
Design/Completion 1982/1986


This mixed-use office/retail development was commissioned by the developers of 11 Diagonal Street and is in many respects the realization of the Humana design with its base adapted to accommodate a retail arcade. The tower is a geometric configuration of two concentric octagons. The outer form spirals about the inner form which culminates in a steep spire housing communications equipment. In the final building, a landscaped roof terrace is provided at each floor level, introducing anatural element and providing vistas over the bay and Indian Ocean.
 
Helmut Jahn
One Liberty Place
Philadelphia, PA
Design/Completion 1984/1987

 
Helmut Jahn
Two Liberty Place
Philadelphia, PA
Design/Completion 1986/1991


This pair of office high-rises required special zoning to exceed the 491-foot limit imposed by the William Penn Statue on City Hall. Both towers are essentially the resolution of elaborate obelisk forms Jahn developed for the Bank of Southwest Tower.
 
Helmut Jahn
South Ferry Plaza
New York, NY
Design 1985


Envisioned as a symbolic entry to New York City, this project transforms a confused traffic nexus into a dramatic sequence of public spaces that culminates in a 50-story tower marking the land/water juncture. Situated at the southern tip of Manhattan, its public components include a new ferry terminal for the Staten Island Ferry, an observation plaza with lighthouse beacon, and the Museum of Maritime History. The hexagonal shaft rises out of a triangular base. Large arches at the tower base channel gravity loads to three points straddling existing subway lines, Battery Park underpasses, ferry slips, and related terminal spaces.
 
Helmut Jahn
Pacific Basin Tower
Design 1985


One among a series of towers meant to express the cultural diversity of the pacific rim. The central mast of this Neo-constructivist houses an elevator and the exterior helix holds a monorail that leads to various platforms reserved for different nations. The helix is suspended like the rigging of a boar, achieving lateral structural resistance. The round base houses a museum with the network of the structure forming an implied roof above its large circular court.
 
Helmut Jahn
Columbus Circle
New York, NY
Design 1985


This multi-use complex of office, hotel, and residential space is conceived as a segmented hollow octagonal tube that terraces upwards in a spiraling configuration, commanding views of Central Park and the Hudson River. The tower is set back at 300 feet above grade where there is a skylobby. The base contains retail and new subway entrances.
 
Helmut Jahn
Xerox Center
Chicago, IL
Design/Completion 1978/1980


This speculative office tower later took the name of its major tenant. The final office building is characterized by its taut white aluminum and mirror skin which curves around the corner making the transition between its two sides that of a single front. Jahn arrived at Xerox Center's form by gracefully rounding one of the corners of a traditional Miesian rectilinear tower. The seamless curvilinear transition creates a shape that is complex but still basic. In relation to drawings for later high-rises, these drawings are sparse and direct in their thinking, achieving an elegant resolve through a process of subtraction.
 
Helmut Jahn
Bank of Southwest Tower
Houston, TX
Design 1982


The competition called for an office high-rise that was to be the tallest building outside of New YOrk and chicago. Jahn proposed several schemes based on the square, chamfered square, octagon, star and telescope. These ranged from the radical to the conservative. Although it went unbuilt, Jahn won the competition with an obelisk form, situated on a diagonal in relation to its site, and culminating in a series of gabled porticos with grand arches, each set to face the corners. The gabled porticos and diagonal orientation were a way of bringing the crown to the street level.
 
Helmut Jahn
Park Avenue Tower
New York, NY
Design/Completion 1982/1986

 
Helmut Jahn
Cityspire
New York, NY
Design/Completion 1983/1989

 
Helmut Jahn
60 Wall Street
New York, NY
Design 1983


For this competition for a speculative office tower in Manhattan's financial district, Jahn presented three designs each based on classical forms--column, obelisk, and beacon. Elements from these unrealized designs would later resurface in other designs, notably 425 Lexington and 750 Lexington.
 
Helmut Jahn
425 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY
Design/Completion 1983/1989


Corporate office tower in midtown Manhattan. The corners at the top of the building were chamfered to create the effect of a column whose capital towers over both the shaft and base which occupies a city block.
 
Helmut Jahn
Chicago Sports Complex
Chicago, IL
Design 1985


A two-stadium complex with a retractable roof and separate facilities for football and baseball.
 
Helmut Jahn
Galveston Arches
Galveston, TX
Design 1985


An open air pavilion which was to serve as the focal point of the city's Mardi Gras celebration dating back to 1867. Jahn's design was primarily based on festive arches placed along Tremont Street, one of the city's main boulevards in 1881.
 
Helmut Jahn
Oakbrook Terrace Tower
Oakbrook, IL
Design/Completion 1985/1987

 
Helmut Jahn
American Airlines Terminal JFK
New YOrk
Design 1988

 
Helmut Jahn
Hyatt Regency, Roissy
Paris, France
Design/Completion 1988/1992


This Hyatt is a 400 room airport hotel facilitating travel in and out of Charles de Gaulle Airport. The design is a modern day interpretation of the traditional Parisian courtyard hotel. The central axis is defined by two five-story hotel blocks which form the edges of an interior atrium garden and an exterior courtyard garden.
 

   
   
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