THREATENED: Tragic Death of Architect Helmut Jahn Reignites Debate Over Thompson Center (Chicago 7 2016, 2018, 2019 & 2020)

“Arguing that the controversial Loop structure is Helmut Jahn’s definitive achievement, preservation advocates said Monday that the untimely death of the German architect ‘really does cement the argument that the Thompson Center should be preserved.’

“Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who put the building up for sale last week, on Monday said the state lost ‘a great artistic genius,’ but the James R. Thompson Center doesn’t fall under the category of great, artistic work. ‘It’s not the greatest example of his work,’ the governor said.

“Jahn, 81, who designed the state government building at 100 W. Randolph and other notable structures in Chicago and around the world, died Saturday afternoon when he was struck by two vehicles while riding his bicycle in Campton Hills, near his home in far west suburban St. Charles.

“Advocates for preserving and reusing the Thompson Center plan to renew their push for landmarking it in light of the pending sale and the architect’s death.

“‘This is a building built for the people, by the people, and it should be protected by the … city and the state as a Chicago landmark,’ said Ward Miller, the executive director of Preservation Chicago.

“‘I think it really does define his career,’ Miller said of the Thompson Center. ‘There may still be projects by Jahn in process, but we are never, ever going to see another design by Helmut Jahn be constructed other than what’s already planned, and I think that it really does cement the argument that the Thompson Center should be preserved.’

“Miller and others who hope to preserve the building, which has served as the Chicago headquarters for state government since 1985, say now is the time to recognize ‘if we’re going to be a world class city … these kinds of buildings need to be preserved.’

Preservation Chicago, as part of a coalition of eight local, state and national groups, previously submitted the building for consideration of landmark status, and Miller said they plan to do so ‘probably within the next week.’

“Last year, Jahn issued his own plea to spare the Thompson center.

“A.J. LaTrace, a reporter who covers real estate and a founding member of the James R. Thompson Center Historical Society, said Pritzker’s comment was ‘unfair.’

“LaTrace said preserving the building may be a matter of political will. We all know that our mayor and governor are very PR-conscious people, like a lot of politicians, and so I think if enough people say they want to see this building saved, they they may change their opinions or attitudes about it.'” (Hinton, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/10/21)

Read the full story at Chicag Sun-Times

Architect Helmut Jahn’s death reignites debate over sale of his renowned — and reviled — Thompson Center; Advocates for preserving and reusing the James R. Thompson Center plan to renew their push for landmarking it in light of the pending sale and the architect’s death. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it “was a building that never lived up to his creative genius,” Rachel Hinton, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/10/21

State v. Jahn: The Thompson Center is dead, long live the Thompson Center, F. Philip Barash, NewCity Design, 5/4/21 

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