Archive for the ‘Near North SRO’ Category

E.L. swell in Dwell



the current issue of Dwell to read

Chicago’s High-Tech Homeless solution

by, moi.

Helmut Jahn’s high-tech, “green” Supportive Housing in Chicago.

No link available, but the magazine is. The entire issue is superb.

The Starchitect vs. the homeless?


I used to think “Starchitect” was a pejorative word. Now it’s used in marketing! Seen in a Chicago Tribune ad like this, to me it seems provincial and unfortunate.

But I’m glad to see Helmut Jahn’s name restored in Chicago. He was much-criticized here after his bathroom-colored, post-modern State of Illinois building opened in 1985. After that, and partly due to heating and cooling problems, Jahn’s talents were under-used here in his adopted hometown. Instead he designed fine, well-made, interesting structures mostly in Asia and Europe, for example Bayer AG’s new Group headquarters in Germany.

All of the work abroad by Helmut Jahn that I’ve seen is more daring, more exciting than

this new tower, 600 N. Fairbanks, that he’s designed for Chicago near the lake, near the river.

Why is Jahn’s work abroad even more interesting than it is in his adopted home town of Chicago, supposedly the world’s center of Modernism?


1980’s work at O’Hare airport, the terminal connecting tunnel, the airport subway stop and the United Terminal are all very nice and display his design flair.

And he has a fine recent building in Chicago –

his train-shaped steel, glass and concrete dorm at the Illinois Institute of Technology, across the street from Mies’ Crown Hall.

And very soon a similar steel, glass and concrete train-shaped form,

Near North Apartments, 96-units for homeless people, will open very near to where Chicago’s notorious public housing project Cabrini-Green recently stood.

I’d love to write the following story, I hope I’ll have time. I did a few interviews for it last night. Many of the homeless people Jahn’s SRO is meant to serve, well, when you talk to them, and ask them what kind of a house they’d like to live in, they describe a typical suburban dwelling, with pitched roof and fireplace, a few windows; when you show them Jahn’s building they don’t really “get” it. “It’s not really what I dreamed of” is what I heard, along with, “why did he use concrete on the inside?” The argument reprises society’s battles against Modernism! Stay tuned for more.

All aboard the Helmut Jahn Express


Pardon me boys, but Helmut Jahn’s SRO on the north side of Chicago is looking good.
Like a train running through the neighborhood.
Nice romantic imagery.
And Chicago has a lot of history with trains. Both as the freight and passenger hub and for the Illinois Central and the Great Migration of people riding the train up here from the south.

Helmut’s work is a knock – off of

his own fine dorms at the Illinois Institute of Technology, across the street from Crown Hall. There he said the train imagery is because these dorms run alongside the tracks and when he studied at IIT he’d romanticize taking the ‘el’ forty or so blocks north, into downtown Chicago.

The Near North Apartments add wind turbines to the top, – you can see them in the photos – they’re to create a little energy, or at least to make a nod in that direction.

Inside are 96-units for homeless people. The housing is slated to also provide access to services such as mental health assistance and vocational guidance.) Jahn told me he did the work pro-bono. It’s due to open in February. We’ll keep you up-to-date.


more on Jahn, and his SRO here