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Helmut Jahn, in handwritten note, ‘embarrassed’ by O’Hare choice

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“Hopefully the next mayor will turn this around”

Studio ORD’s design.
Chicago Department of Aviation

After a competition lacking transparency, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that a team from Studio Gang would design the new terminal and concourse for O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday. Not everyone was happy about that choice.

Architect Helmut Jahn scrawled a pink handwritten note which he emailed to Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin on Thursday. In Chicago, Jahn is most known for designing the James R. Thompson Center—a postmodern building you either love or hate. The architect also designed Terminal 1 at O’Hare.

Later that morning, Kamin tweeted out the barely legible note:

Here’s what that tweet said, just in case you were squinting your eyes:

“I am embarrassed that some of my most respected colleagues have been misused to placate premeditated decision not justified by design or experience. Such attitude has not made Chicago a capitol of world architecture. Hopefully, the next mayor will turn this around.”

Jahn’s Chicago office did not immediately respond when asked for more context around the note, but Kamin did share that it was intended for publication.

The note implies that what’s most upsetting about the selection process was the secrecy of those who were judging the designs and what went on behind closed doors.

During the design competition, Studio ORD’s design came in third place on two separate questions that asked respondents to rank the five finalists. So even the general public wasn’t exactly on board with the mayor’s choice.