News Studio Visit

Lot 14 towers in Shanghai, China.
Courtesy Jahn

The Chicago offices of JAHN are lined with models of unbuilt work. Renderings of towers, airports, and corporate headquarters never realized line the walls of the third floor of the Joachim G. Giaver and Frederick P. Dinkelberg–designed Jeweler’s Building like wallpaper. Hardly paper architects, the designers here are happy to confront the dreams of past projects on a daily basis. “As you walk through these hallways you get ideas,” said firm principal Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido. “Maybe things that didn’t get built inspire you.”

Gonzalez-Pulido stepped up from executive vice president to share design leadership with Helmut Jahn in 2012, at which point the firm changed its name from Murphy/Jahn to JAHN. They announced the changes in a hand-written note the same day Jahn received a lifetime achievement award from the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Already well-known for previous work—the firm’s roots go back to the early 20th century when Charles F. Murphy joined D.H. Burnham & CO., forming Graham, Burnham & Co.—JAHN is still pushing the limits of modern design. Past work includes Chicago’s controversial James R. Thompson Center and O’Hare Airport, as well as what was until 2008 the tallest building in Philadelphia, One Liberty Place. More recently, Las Vegas’ Veer Towers and New York’s 50 West Street have signaled the firm’s continued interest in domestic markets, despite a long record of work in Jahn’s native Europe and elsewhere.

In a nod to the firm’s growing presence in Asia, Gonzalez-Pulido pulls a bound volume of prospective and in-progress projects on the continent. Three levels of his office bookshelf are devoted to such tomes, emblazoned with Chinese and English project names in the firm’s preferred red and black.

Master planning in Asia is a newer endeavor for JAHN, Gonzalez-Pulido said, but their new work continues a long tradition. New projects anticipate technological advances, chasing aggressive energy reduction goals and raw structural aesthetics that draw heavily on old school steel-and-glass modernism, but enliven it with responsive design. And as always, light is a central fixation. “Our buildings are luminous, not illuminated,” said Gonzalez-Pulido.


Shanghai International Financial Center
Shanghai, China

This 5.6-million-square-foot complex will be home to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the China Financial Futures Exchange, and the China Securities Depository and Clearing Corporation. About one third of the usable space is below grade, integrating trading rooms, offices, and corporate amenities with public cultural attractions including a museum and theater. “It introduces a new attitude to corporate offices,” said Gonzalez-Pulido.

Post Tower
Bonn, Germany

JAHN’s 2002 tower in Bonn, Germany, just received a retrospective honor from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, who called it “one of the world’s lower energy-consuming tall buildings. [It] paved the way for the next generation of high-performing tall buildings.” At about 535 feet tall, the elliptical tower features an operable facade and optimal site orientation. It uses about one fifth as much energy as similarly sized office buildings.

Nanjing Tower
Nanjing, China

Planned for completion in 2016, Nanjing’s newest super tall skyscraper will contain a hotel and offices, with a large retail center at its base. The folded metal panels of the podium skin create a simple pattern at the tower base and provide shading. Tower and podium play off each other with explorations of concavity and convexity.


Cosmopolitan Twarda
Warsaw, Poland

This 511-foot-tall tower in Warsaw beckons new residents to an area between the Old Town and new urban development to the west. Operable windows, a variety of glass treatments, and shades give the residential tower a sense of airiness, while a break in the massing offsets the apartments from the Jewish Cultural Center at the tower’s base. Diagonal steel cross bracing girds the structure, providing flexibility for the interior layouts.


Lot 14
Shanghai, China

Another example of the firm’s growing footprint in China, LOT 14 is a mixed-use project in Shanghai’s Qiantan International Business Zone. The abstracted facade pattern responds to changes in daylight through the use of a mirrored frit—tendrils of dark glass appear to brighten with the sun. Connective pathways and entrances at the 310-foot-tall tower’s base facilitate pedestrian traffic and create the illusion that the tower is floating.

Related Stories