Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Farewell, Helmut Jahn

The Thompson Center -- aka The State of Illinois Building -- has always been one of my favorites. I'm afraid I'm in the minority on this. Constructed mostly of glass, it's difficult to cool in summer and heat in winter. New leaks spring up constantly and are almost impossible to detect/repair in a timely manner, which had led to mold. Tenants complain that they can smell and hear the basement food court.

But I love it. I love looking all the way to the ceiling and then down to the floor. I love the Christmas Tree in the lobby. I love the food court.

And so right now I'm sad. 

First the State officially put the building up for sale. The only restrictions are that the new owner must keep the el station (not disrupting service) and keep the name (James R. Thompson was IL's longest-serving, never-indicted governor). That won't preclude the building being torn down. In fact, it's far more likely than not that it will go. It's across the street from City Hall, central to the court houses and not far from the theater district. I understand why this would be the perfect location for a more functional and efficient office building with a prestige restaurant at street level (along with a Walgreens or CVS, or maybe a Dunkin or Starbucks; we seem to need a drugstore or coffee shop on every other block).

Then this weekend, the architect died in a terrible bike accident. Helmut Jahn pedaled into an intersection and was hit by two different cars from opposite directions. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 81.

I suppose it's a blessing that he won't have to endure interviews when his creation is destroyed.

He also designed the United terminal at O'Hare. There's a pedestrian tunnel between the concourses with a neon ceiling. It always makes me happy when I come down the escalator and see the red and blue lights. I wonder how many travelers enjoy it every day.

Helmut Jahn enhanced my city life. I'm grateful to him.

1 comment:

  1. What a tragic accident. I love the photos you included--wow, looking up is amazing!