One South Wacker
by: chicago designslinger
[One South Wacker (1982) C.F. Murphy Associates, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In 1982, Michael Jackson's Thriller was at the top of the charts, the tv show Dynasty ruled the airwaves, and architect Helmut Jahn's shimmering, stepped tower at One South Wacker was ready for occupancy.
[One South Wacker, 1 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Jahn was Michael Jackson and Joan Collins' Alexis Carrington Colby rolled into one architectural bundle. The 41-year-old architect made headlines with his splashy design for the State of Illinois Building and had recently been made president of C.F. Murphy Associates, the firm he'd been working for for the past 14 years. Charles F. Murphy was 91-years-old in 1981 when the dean of Chicago architects decided to take a step back in his active 70-year career. Murphy had started-out in the business in 1911 working as a stenographer in the office of Chicago's architectural icon Daniel Burnham. After Burnham's death in 1912, Murphy followed Burnham's protege Ernest Graham to Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, where the young man served as Graham's personal secretary and confidant until Graham's death in 1936. From that point on, Murphy's career path followed that of his former employers, with C.F. Murphy Associates becoming one of the city's prominent architectural firms.
[One South Wacker, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Helmut Jahn came to Chicago from his native Germany in 1966 with an architectural degree in hand and an intention to continue his studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He stayed at IIT only a year, and began working in Murphy's firm in 1967. By the mid-1970s Jahn was the lead designer on many of the firm's large projects, and the 35-year-old architect was starting to make a name for himself. Turning his back on the modernism practiced by many of his colleagues, Jahn became identified with the emerging post-modern movement. As he said in a debate about the pros and cons of modernism in 1981, "A lot of architecture today is stale and devoid of any new statements." And at 72-years-old, he's continuing to make new statements.