Helmut Jahn on the Ethos of Mansueto Library

Architect Helmut Jahn explains how his aesthetic choices for the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library reflect the University of Chicago’s guiding ideals of inquiry and knowledge.

by The University of Chicago

Video by Tom Rossiter; interview by Carment Marti; editing by Mark Lofgren; original music by Jim Tullio;
sound recording by Mick Clemente; video assistance by Andrew Bruah; styling and makeup by Cindy Surman.

Helmut Jahn (born January 4, 1940) is a German-American architect, well known for designs such as the US$800 million Sony Center on the Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, the Messeturm in Frankfurt and the One Liberty Place, formerly the tallest building in Philadelphia, and Suvarnabhumi Airport, an international airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Jahn was born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1940. After attending the Technical University of Munich from 1960 to 1965, he worked with Peter C. von Seidlein for a year. In 1966, he emigrated to Chicago to further study architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, leaving school without earning his degree.

In 1967, he joined C. F. Murphy Associates as a protégé of Gene Summers and was appointed Executive Vice President and Director of Planning and Design of the firm in 1973. Taking sole control from 1981, the firm was renamed Murphy/Jahn, although the aged Murphy had retired (dying a few years later, in 1985).

Generally inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, yet opposed to the doctrinal application of modernism by his followers, in 1978, Jahn became the eighth member of the Chicago Seven. Despite a rocky start when the roof of his first major project Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri collapsed in 1979, Jahn established his pre-eminent reputation in 1985 with the State of Illinois Center in Chicago which prompted him to be dubbed “Flash Gordon.”[2].

Jahn has grown the business into a global architectural practice that consistently ranks among top 20 United States architectural firms in terms of gross annual billings. In addition to the main seat in Chicago, the company has offices in Berlin and Shanghai.

On October 26, 2012, Helmut Jahn renamed Murphy/Jahn to simply JAHN and announced that he will share design leadership at the firm with architect Francisco Gonzalez Pulido, a partner and president of JAHN.

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Categories: Educational, Interviews, Museums & Theaters, Public

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