Helmut Jahn, Drawings: Works in Exhibition


Helmut Jahn, 4,000 working drawings, Installation designed by the architect, Courtesy of the architect.

Note: Design/Completion = built Design = not built

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.