Helmut Jahn, world-famous architect behind several local buildings, dead at 81

Joe and Rika Mansueto Library architect Helmut Jahn speaks with University of Chicago Library Director and University librarian Judith Nadler (retired 2014), as the library opens its doors for the first time for use by students and scholars on May 16, 2011. 

Jahn died on Saturday, May 8, after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle in the western suburbs, according to the Tribune. While he was perhaps best-known in Chicago as the architect behind downtown's audaciously postmodern James R. Thompson Center, he designed several buildings in the Hyde Park area.

The most prominent of those projects is the Mansueto Library, a glass dome attached to the U. of C.'s Brutalist Regenstein Library. The building contains a reading room on the first floor, but extends down 55 feet, where an underground library, serviced by an automated retrieval system, can store 3.5 million books. 

Jahn was also the architect behind a pair of university utility buildings: the South Campus Chiller Plant at 6035 S. Blackstone Ave. and the West Campus Combined Utility Plant at 5617 S. Maryland Ave. Both buildings, which were completed in 2010, are made up of a glass facade that reveals their inner workings; Jahn described one as "almost a piece of equipment." 

— Marc Monaghan and Christian Belanger

(2) comments

Dottie Jeffries

Thank you for this thoughtful and thorough piece that celebrates Helmut Jahn's legacy in Hyde Park. Well done.


I hope that all the bicyclists in Hyde Park who make a habit of ignoring the rules of the road will note that Jahn was hit because he blew a stop sign.

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