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Thompson Center architect Helmut Jahn killed in Campton Hills bike accident

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One of his more controversial buildings was the James R. Thompson Building, a glass-sheathed, Illinois government office building in Chicago's Loop that opened in 1985.

Video Transcript

MICHELLE GALLARDO: Helmut Jahn once said the Thompson Center cemented his reputation around the world, and killed it in Chicago.

WARD MILLER: It's tragic on every level that we lost one of Chicago's most famous living architects, who practiced around the world. And this was his masterpiece, his early masterpiece.

MICHELLE GALLARDO: A controversial masterpiece at that, maligned for everything from cost overruns to its design, meant to symbolize transparent government.

LEE BEY: You go inside. There's a soaring atrium that lays bare government, if you will, and the functions of government and the elevators and everything. Here it is. Here's your democracy, all laid open for you.

MICHELLE GALLARDO: Dead at the age of 81, the German architect of world-renowned fame was killed Saturday afternoon when he was struck by 2 vehicles while out riding his bicycle near West suburban St. Charles. The legacy Jahn leaves behind, however, will live on, not just at the Thompson Center, but at the Chicago Board of Trade, where he was in charge of designing the extension, and at O'Hare airport's United Airlines terminal. Jahn is also the architect behind Berlin's acclaimed Sony Center.

WARD MILLER: You love talking about his projects, which every architect loves to do. But, you know what? I think he was at a point in his career where he could really look back and be proud of his structures.

MICHELLE GALLARDO: More recently, Jahn designed this still-in-progress 74-story residential building at 1000 South Michigan, It's 2022 due date indefinitely postponed as construction was halted during the pandemic.

LEE BEY: In losing Helmut Jahn, we not only lose one of the best architects on the planet, we lose someone who cared about Chicago.

MICHELLE GALLARDO: Ironically, after years of speculation, the state put the Thompson Center up for sale just this past week. And conservationists are now worried about its survival and are calling on both the mayor and the governor to give it landmark status as part of the sale package.