Helmut Jahn, a German-born architect who designed buildings around the world but was most influential in his adopted hometown, Chicago, where he conceived of an extravagant downtown home to state government and the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare International Airport, died on Saturday in a traffic accident near the horse farm where he lived, in St. Charles, Ill. He was 81.
His wife, Deborah (Lampe) Jahn, confirmed the death. He had been riding his bicycle in suburban Campton Hills when he was struck by two cars that were heading in opposite directions. A news release from the local police department said that Mr. Jahn failed to brake at a stop sign.
A modernist who began a long flirtation with postmodernism in the 1970s, Mr. Jahn (pronounced “yahn”) designed the Xerox Center, an elegant 45-story office tower with a glass and aluminum curtain wall, a rounded corner and a two-story streetfront that undulates inward that opened in 1980 in Chicago’s Loop.
Philip Johnson called Mr. Jahn “a genuine genius” and “a comet flashing in the sky,” although he added, “I don’t know about him yet.”
At the time, construction of Mr. Jahn’s futuristic design of the State of Illinois Center — a government and retail complex — was nearly complete in the middle of the Loop. The facade is a mix of reflective bluish-turquoise glass; inside, the circular atrium has a mix of salmon-colored and blue metal panels. Multicolored granite lines the base.
In his 1985 review in The New York Times, the architecture critic Paul Goldberger said that the complex’s “squat form, which swoops around one corner in a 16-story-high curve, is one part Pompidou Center, one part Piranesi and one part kitsch 1950s revival. He added, “It is not surprising that it has left even this relatively sophisticated city breathless.”
Reaction to Mr. Jahn’s buildings in Chicago ranged from “dazzling” to the critical observation that it was “unrelated to anything else in the whole of Western civilization.”
Eero Saarinen’s early-1960s designs for Dulles International Airport in Washington and the T.W.A. Flight Center at Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Helmut Jahn was born on Jan. 4, 1940, in Nuremberg, Germany, and grew up in a nearby suburb. His father, Wilhelm, was a special-education teacher. His mother, Lena (Werth) Jahn, was a homemaker.
As a boy, Helmut loved drawing and painting, but he aspired to be an airline pilot. “But he wasn’t very good at languages, which disqualified him to be a pilot for Lufthansa,” his wife said, “so he chose architecture because it involved a lot of drawing.”
After graduating from the Technische Hochschule in Munich, he earned a master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture. After he graduated in 1967, he was hired by Gene Summers, formerly the right-hand man to the modernist giant Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, at the venerable Chicago architectural firm C.F. Murphy Associates.
But five years later the roof collapsed in a rainstorm.
The failure was found to have been caused by the fracture of high strength bolts that helped suspend the roof.
In 1981, Murphy Associates became Murphy/Jahn; Mr. Jahn became the firm’s president a year later and acquired it in 1983. It was renamed Jahn in 2012.
After designing the State of Illinois Center (which would be renamed the James R. Thompson Center, for the Illinois Republican governor who backed it), Mr. Jahn worked with Donald J. Trump to design a 150-floor tower that would have been the centerpiece of a megacomplex on the West Side of Manhattan called Television City.
That plan never came to fruition, and the site later became a pared-down development called Riverside South.
Mr. Jahn’s other projects in Manhattan included the 70-story CitySpire in Midtown, behind City Center, and 425 Lexington Avenue, which the architecture critic Carter Horsley dismissed in The City Review in 1987 for its “Roto-Rooterized top,” which he said looked like a “squished foil to the irrepressible upward thrust of the Chrysler Building just across 43rd Street.”
Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago (2011), with an elliptical, 40-foot-high dome that covers a 180-seat reading room and an underground automated storage and retrieval system.
Writing in The Chicago Tribune, the critic Blair Kamin called the library a “convention-busting marvel” that “students seem to love because it lets natural air pour inside, liberating them from the university’s dimly lit reading rooms.”
Mr. Jahn was working on designs until the end of his life.
“He was so possessed with getting his work done,” Mrs. Jahn said by phone. “He was just a one-man show. He had so many ideas in his head.”
In addition to his wife, whom he met when she was the interior designer for McCormick Place, Mr. Jahn is survived by his son, Evan, a partner in the firm; two granddaughters; and a brother, Otmar.
Earlier this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration accelerated the process, sending developers a request for proposals to sell the building, whose upkeep has been deemed too costly.
Last year, Mr. Jahn offered a proposal to save the building by adapting it to create new offices, a hotel and apartments, and building an office tower on the southwest corner of West Randolph and North LaSalle Streets. He also proposed removing the building’s front doors and turning the enormous atrium into a covered outdoor space.
“A demolition and replacement would not only take a long time but seeks high density without considering public benefits,” he wrote in his proposal. We need not more bigger buildings, but buildings which improve the public space.”
The longtime art collector and marketing executive Denise Gardner will become the chairwoman of the Art Institute of Chicago in November, perhaps the country’s first Black woman to hold that position on a major museum board.
“It’s hard to avoid the historical significance,” Gardner said in a telephone interview on Monday. “That does add a sense of responsibility and pressure to succeed, and that’s fine with me. I like to exceed expectations.”
Gardner, 66, will succeed Robert M. Levy — whose term ends in November — at the helm of the Institute’s school as well as the museum.
Having served for 15 years as a trustee and for five in her current role as vice chair, Gardner has championed Black artists as well as art accessibility and education for underrepresented audiences. “The work is still unfinished,” Gardner said. “In this role, I can help the museum accelerate its progress.”
Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, established last fall to help museums bring on more Black trustees, artists and curators.
“A leader with her credentials is exactly what we need right now to take us into the future,” James Rondeau, the museum’s director, said in a phone interview on Monday. Given the Art Institute’s ongoing commitment to diversity, he added, “The experiences and the perspectives that she brings as a Black woman who is so connected to the city of Chicago will only be an asset.”
Gardner — together with her husband, Gary — was the lead individual sponsor of the museum’s 2018 exhibition, “Charles White: A Retrospective,” which traveled to the Museum of Modern of Art. (The Gardners own three White works on paper.)
Her collection focuses on Black and female artists, including Frank Bowling, Nick Cave and Carrie Mae Weems. She was an early buyer of Amy Sherald, whose popularity has surged since her official portrait of Michelle Obama, which hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
“I want people of color to know the history and the power and the contribution of their own people in the visual arts,” Gardner said. “That’s not something I enjoyed in my education as a young person. I remember as an adult when I learned about Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence and I was almost a little angry — why didn’t I know about these artists?”
Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, which supports conservation and small arts organizations.
Gardner said she was brought to the Art Institute as a volunteer almost 27 years ago by Jetta Jones, the museum’s first Black female trustee, who died last weekend at 95. “I hope she knows what’s happening and I think she would have been overjoyed,” Gardner said. “This job could have been hers.”
Meanwhile, in 2020 a group of 170 experts known as the Muon g-2 Theory Initiative published a new consensus value of the theoretical value of muon’s magnetic moment, based on three years of workshops and calculations using the Standard Model. That answer reinforced the original discrepancy reported by Brookhaven.
Reached by phone on Monday, Aida X. El-Khardra, a physicist at the University of Illinois and a co-chair of the Muon g-2 Theory Initiative, said she did not know the result that Fermilab would be announcing two days later — and she didn’t want to, lest she be tempted to fudge in a lecture scheduled just before the official unveiling on Wednesday.
“I have not had the feeling of sitting on hot coals before,” Dr. El-Khadra said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
On the day of the Fermilab announcement another group, using a different technique known as a lattice calculation to compute the muon’s magnetic moment, concluded that there was no discrepancy between the Brookhaven measurement and the Standard Model.
“Yes, we claim that there is no discrepancy between the Standard Model and the Brookhaven result, no new physics,” said Zoltan Fodor of Pennsylvania State University, one of the authors of a report published in Nature on Wednesday.
Dr. El-Khadra, who was familiar with that work, called it an “amazing calculation, but not conclusive.” She noted that the computations involved were horrendously complicated, having to account for all possible ways that a muon could interact with the universe, and requiring thousands of individual sub-calculations and hundreds of hours of supercomputer time.
These lattice calculations, she said, needed to be checked against independent results from other groups to eliminate the possibility of systematic errors. For now, the Theory Initiative’s calculation remains the standard by which the measurements will be compared.
Richard H. Driehaus, an avid investor who grew his grade-school coin collection into a fortune that he wielded to champion historic preservation and classical architecture, died on March 9 in a Chicago hospital. He was 78.
The cause was a cerebral hemorrhage, said a spokeswoman for Driehaus Capital Management, where, as chief investment officer and chairman, he had overseen some $13 billion in assets.
Mr. Driehaus (pronounced DREE-house) restored landmarks in the Chicago area and gave the city a palatial museum that celebrates the Gilded Age. He also established a $200,000 annual prize in his name for classical, traditional and sustainable architecture as a counterbalance to the $100,000 Pritzker Prize, funded by another Chicago family, which he viewed as a validation of modern motifs that were a “homogenized” rejection of the past.
He was immersed in the stock market from the age of 13, took nosebleed gambles on risky rising stocks, and in 2000 was named one of the 25 most influential mutual fund figures of the 20th century by Barron’s.
Institute of Classical Architecture & Art in 2012.
“The problem is there’s no poetry in modern architecture,” he said in an interview with Chicago magazine in 2007. “There’s money — but no feeling or spirit or soul. Classicism has a mysterious power. It’s part of our past and how we evolved as human beings and as a civilization.”
Asked whether he considered buildings designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for example, to be appropriate, he told Architectural Record in 2015: “They’re mechanical, industrial, not very human. It’s like my iPhone, which is beautiful, but I wouldn’t want the building I live in to look like that.” He added: “Architects build for themselves and build for the publicity. They don’t really care what the public thinks.”
The first Richard H. Driehaus Prize, presented through the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, was awarded in 2003 to Léon Krier, a designer of Poundbury, the model British town built according to the Prince of Wales’s architectural principles. The first American laureate, in 2006, was the South African-born Allan Greenberg, who redesigned the Treaty Room Suite at the State Department.
Philanthropy magazine in 2012. “What my dad couldn’t do, I wanted to do.”
he decided that “this was the industry for me” and invested the money he made from delivering The Southtown Economist in stocks recommended by financial columnists. The stocks tanked, teaching him to research each company’s growth potential on his own.
He flunked out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, enrolled in Southeast Junior College and then transferred to DePaul, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1965 and a master’s in business administration in 1970. He worked for the investment bank A.G. Becker & Company, becoming its youngest portfolio manager, and for several other firms before starting his own, Driehaus Securities, in 1979. He founded Driehaus Capital Management in 1982.
He married when he was in his early 50s; the marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by three daughters, Tereza, Caroline and Katherine Driehaus, and two sisters, Dorothy Driehaus Mellin and Elizabeth Mellin.
“I never did anything until I was 50,” Mr. Driehaus told The New York Times in 2008. “I spent my early years making money for my clients. Now I’m ready to have some fun.”
He did, staging his own extravagant themed birthday parties for hundreds of guests at his mansion on Lake Geneva (at one gala, he made his grand entrance on an elephant) and indulging his passion for collecting.
He started with furnishings he provided to a bar called Gilhooley’s, then moved on to decorative arts and art nouveau for the landmark Samuel M. Nickerson mansion, a palazzo that he restored as the Richard H. Driehaus Museum. He also amassed a fleet of vintage automobiles.
He gave as good as he got, several hundred million dollars’ worth — to DePaul and to Chicago theater and dance groups, Catholic schools and other organizations often overlooked by major philanthropies. And he felt quite at ease being a very big fish in what he acknowledged was a smaller pond — but a more hospitable one.
“In New York, I’m just another successful guy,” he told the City Club of Chicago in 2016. “You can’t make an impact in New York. But in Chicago you can, because it’s big enough and it’s small enough and people actually get along enough.”