"Architects hardly have any vision anymore. They are put into a straightjacket by clients. Now, we are just pussyfooting around."
Those are the words of veteran architect Helmut Jahn, 2012 recipient of the Lynn S. Beedle lifetime achievement award from the Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat. Jahn made his remarks to the several hundred attendees of the CTBUH's 11th annual awards symposium, on Oct. 18, in Chicago. He woke up the crowd with his frank statement. Likely, he anticipated the impact. Many in the audience seemed to agree with him. Some grumbled that architecture and engineering are more commodities than professions.
At the awards dinner that night, during his acceptance remarks, Jahn the contrarian, asked, "Is taller really better?"
He was back on his soap box, putting down the newest batch of supertall buildings that reach higher with spires rather than with occupied floors.
Then Jahn, the designer of Sony Center in Berlin, Xerox Center in Chicago, Liberty Place in Philadelphia and the MGM Veer Towers in Las Vegas—to name just a few—issued a charge to architects. He called upon them to "refocus on how we can be innovative, do new things, fight the development interests and further the interests of architects and engineers and create a better built environment."
The question Jahn left unanswered was: How?