Day 271/365 of Steel – Helmut Jahn

High-tech architecture

Helmut Jahn (January 4, 1940 – May 8, 2021) was a German-American architect, known for projects such as the Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany; the Messeturm in Frankfurt, Germany; the Thompson Center in Chicago; One Liberty Place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Suvarnabhumi Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand, among others.

Sony Center Berlin
Fig 1: Sony Center Berlin
Photo: © Rainer Viertlbock

His recent projects included 50 West Street, a residential tower in New York City in 2016 and the ThyssenKrupp Test Tower in Rottweil, Germany in 2017.

Sony Center Berlin
Fig 2: Sony Center Berlin
Photo: © Rainer Viertlbock

He studied architecture at the Technical University of Munich from 1960 to 1965. Jahn joined Charles Francis Murphy’s architecture firm, C. F. Murphy Associates, in 1967. He took sole control in 1981, renaming the firm Murphy/Jahn. 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.

Sony Center Berlin
Fig 3: Sony Center Berlin
Photo: © Rainer Viertlbock

Jahn’s style has been described as a kind of romantic hi-tech, his buildings often celebrating their structure and inner workings, but always with an additional dramatic flourish. As he put it: “We do not construct decoration, we decorate construction.”

1999 K Street, NW, an office building located in Washington, D.C.
Fig 4: 1999 K Street, NW, an office building located in Washington, D.C.
Photo: AgnosticPreachersKid

He always worked closely with engineers from the very beginning of the design process, particularly with his compatriot Werner Sobek, and described their approach as “archi-neering”.

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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