German architect Helmut Jahn, designer of airports from Chicago to Bangkok and Berlin’s Sony Center, killed in bike accident

German-born Helmut Jahn, a leading postmodernist architect whose works included convention centers from Doha to Shanghai, and airport projects from Chicago to Bangkok, has died at 81 in a bicycle crash.

Jahn was reportedly riding a bike on Saturday afternoon in Campton Hills, Illinois, located about 50 miles west of Chicago, when he was struck by two cars going in opposite directions. Police said the cyclist failed to yield at a stop sign before being struck on an intersection. Jahn, who was a resident of neighboring St. Charles, Illinois, was pronounced dead at the scene.

After finishing his studies at Technische Hochschule in Munich, Jahn came to Chicago in 1966 to study under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the creators of postmodernist architecture. 

Jahn’s major projects in Chicago included Citigroup Center, the United Airlines Terminal at O’Hare International Airport, the Mansueto Library, and the James R. Thompson Center government office building. He also designed One Liberty Place in Philadelphia.

Jahn also made his mark in his home country, where he designed Berlin’s dramatic Sony Center, Neues Kranzler Eck, the MesseTurm in Frankfurt, ThyssenKrupp Test Tower in Rottweil, and Galeria Kaufhof in Chemnitz. He also was chosen to design corporate headquarters for Bayer and Sign Dusseldorf, as well as the Highlight Towers in Munich.

Other signature projects included the glass exterior of the European Commission’s Charlemagne building in Brussels, CitySpire in New York, Cosmopolitan Tower in Warsaw, VEER Towers in Las Vegas and Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Jahn also designed major airport projects in Cologne and Munich, as well as the redevelopment of Tokyo’s main train station.

Chicago architecture critic Blair Kamin said the prolific and influential Jahn was a “dashing star” of his profession. “He was on the cover of GQ,” Kamin told the Chicago Tribune.

“He was renowned as much for his persona as for his architecture, but his architecture was always exceptional. And, as time went on, he was regarded as less of a ‘Flash Gordon’ character and more of a modernist master,” Kamin said.

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