Jahn's Low Budget "Twinkies" Will Rise From Cabrini Rubble

September 15, 2004 · by DesignIntelligence

Known for glittering urban structures such as airport terminals, Helmut Jahn recently undertook a much lower-budget project: a room of their own for Chicago’s homeless.

The recent renaissance at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus has resulted in a greater appreciation of architect Helmut Jahn’s work. A former IIT grad student and professor, Jahn is known for glittering urban structures such as airport terminals, white-collar towers and the buildings of his alma mater. But he recently undertook a much lower-budget project: a room of their own for Chicago’s homeless.

Described by one writer as a “silver, Twinkie-shaped structure,” the steel-and-glass “single-room occupancy” of the Near North Apartments will consist of 100 units built on the grounds of the former Cabrini-Green housing project, chronicled as a wasteland in books including There are no Children Here.

Social services and counseling will be offered on-site, but unlike most shelters, each person will have his or her own room.

“We didn’t really start out to make something unique,” Jahn said. “We made a very efficient room.”

The design borrows heavily from plans Jahn drafted for dorms a few miles away—at the Illinois Institute of Technology, his alma mater.

The energy-saving design includes rooftop wind turbines and solar paneling and a system to recycle collected rainwater to flush toilets.

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