Helmut Jahn

Making it Work

Yesterday, Architecture360's Lee Bey wrote an opinion piece for the Chicago Sun Times making the case to preserve Chicago's James R. Thompson Center. In Counterpoint: Make this iconic Chicago building work, Bey notes that wrecking the building "would be an embarrassing waste of architecture and opportunity."

The James R. Thompson Center (JRTC) opened in May 1985 as the State of Illinois Center. It was renamed in 1993 to honor former Illinois Republican Governor James R. Thompson. The JRTC was designed by German-American architect Helmut Jahn and earlier this week, current Illinois Governor Rauner proposed a plan to sell the JRTC to anyone who would demolish it in a year and build something new in its place.

In the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin also made the case to spare the JRTC. In his column, he spotlights Portland, OR's decision to renovate the Michael Graves-designed Portland Building. Much like the JRTC, the 15-story municipal office building in Portland was up for demolition. Portland officials have backed a cost-effective proposal that would allow for aging mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to be replaced. Shouldn't a similar restoration of the JRTC be considered? As Mr. Kamin notes "Life and architecture rarely give us second chances to correct (and improve upon) our early errors."

At a time when the Chicago Architecture Biennial is bringing attention to the city's architectural heritage, it is a perfect moment to have meaningful conversations about the preservation of postmodern buildings.