Chicago Remembers Architect Helmut Jahn, Designer of Thompson Center

Jahn worked on projects at the McCormick Place and O'Hare International Airport

Helmut Jahn, a prominent German architect who was known in Chicago for designing the city's Thompson Center, was remembered Sunday for his creativity and incredible bodies of work.

Jahn, 81, was struck and killed while riding a bicycle Saturday afternoon in the suburban village of Campton Hills.

"He was what we call a 'Starchitect,' or what we call a star architect, long before the term was coined," said Blair Kamin, a former architecture critic with the Chicago Tribune. "He was as much known for his persona as his buildings, but I think unlike many star architects, he never froze in a single style, but kept evolving though out his career."

A profile posted on the website of his firm, Jahn, says he was born in Germany in 1940 and graduated from Technische Hochschule in Munich. He moved to Chicago in 1966 to study under legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a creator of modernist architecture, at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Jahn's legacy on the ITT campus stands tall.

A student housing building he designed, State Street Village, was recognized as one of the coolest dorms in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

"His buildings are just great places to be," said Reed Kroloff, dean of the IIT College of Architecture." They make you happy to be in them. You’re excited, and there is always something dynamic and dazzling going on around you."

He worked on several major projects, including Chicago’s McCormick Place and the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare International Airport, which includes a walkway famous for its colorful lighting.

"One thing I can take away from this is his bravado. He always had a command and confidence that he used," said Stewart Hicks, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Funeral arrangements hadn't been announced as of Sunday evening.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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