Thompson Center by Helmut Jahn, Chicago 1985 - Photo by Mobilus in Mobili

Thompson Center by Helmut Jahn, Chicago 1985 – Photo by Mobilus in Mobili.

In memoriam  We do not construct decoration, we decorate construction.” Said once Helmut Jahn, who designed company headquarters, banks, airports and government buildings across the world, capturing the power-dressing pomp of the 1980s. The German-American architect was struck and killed by two vehicles while riding his bicycle in Chicago.

Sony Centre Berlin by Helmut Jahn, 2000 - Photo by Paul Appleton

Sony Centre Berlin, 2000 – Photo by Paul Appleton.

Among his most notorious buildings are the James R. Thompson Center and the United Airlines Terminal One at the O’Hare airport, both in Chicago, the Sony Centre complex on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin the One Liberty Place skyscraper in Philadelphia and the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

United Airlines Terminal One at the O'Hare airport by Helmut Jahn, Chicago 1987 - Photo by Darshan Simha

United Airlines Terminal One at the O’Hare airport, Chicago 1987 – Photo by Darshan Simha.

Nicknamed the ‘Flash Gordon of architecture’ for his bold corporate postmodernism, Helmut Jhan captured the 80s rampant-power business spirit. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong in using a building to connote achievement and a certain commercial power,” he said. “Great statesmen, great emperors, great dictators always build great buildings.”

55 West Monroe - former Xerox Center - by Helmut Jahn, Chicago, 1980 - Photo by UIC Library Digital Collections

55 West Monroe – former Xerox Center -, Chicago, 1980 – Photo by UIC Library Digital Collections.

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1940, Helmut Jahn contributed to shaping the contemporary architecture scene of his adopted hometown Chicago where he studied under the modernist maestro Ludwig Mies van Der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Here, in 1980, he completed the Xerox Center – now 55 West Monroe -, an elegant 45-story office tower with a glass and aluminum curtain wall, a rounded corner and a two-story street front that undulates inward.

Thompson Center atrium by Helmut Jahn, Chicago 1985 - Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel

Thompson Center atrium by Helmut Jahn, Chicago 1985 – Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel.

Also in Chicago, his James R. Thompson Center, 1985, rises like a sort of Pompidou Center turned inside out. The facade comes with a mix of reflective bluish-turquoise glass; inside, the circular atrium has a mix of salmon-colored and blue metal panels, while multicoloured granite lines the base.

United Airlines Terminal One at the O'Hare airport by Helmut Jahn, Chicago 1987 - Photo by Thomas Hawk

United Airlines Terminal One at the O’Hare airport, Chicago 1987 – Photo by Thomas Hawk.

The United Terminal One, 1987, pays tribute to 19th-century train stations; the column-free platform is paved with concrete and the walls are constructed of wavy glass block with backlighting. The project features a kaleidoscopic tunnel developed in collaboration with Canadian neon artist Michael Hayden.

Liberty Place by Helmut Jahn, Philadelphia 1987 - Photo by Ryan O'Shea

Liberty Place, Philadelphia, 1987 – Photo by Ryan O’Shea.

Liberty Place in Philadelphia is a couple of steel and blue glass towers bursting through Philly’s height limit and heavily influenced by New York City’s Chrysler Building. His Sony Center in Postdamer Platz in Berlin, 1998, features a billowing fabric umbrella sheltering an open public forum.

Sony Center by Helmut Jahn in Berlin, 2000 - Photo by Andreas Tille

Sony Center Berlin, 2000 – Photo by Andreas Tille.

The Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok is designed with structural elements and bays placed in a cantilevered, wavelike form to appear to “float” over the concourse beneath. A translucent membrane with three layers was developed to mediate between the interior and exterior climate, dealing with noise and temperature transmission, while still allowing the natural flow of daylight into the building along with views of the greenery outside.

Suvarnabhumi Airport by Helmut Jahn, Bangkok, 2006 - Photo by Dennis Wong

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, 2006 – Photo by Dennis Wong.