German-born architect and long-time Chicago resident Helmut Jahn is currently working on luxury condominium 1000M, which will stand at 74 stories and 832-feet tall, at the edge of Grant Park in downtown Chicago’s so-called South Loop. When it’s completed in 2021, it’ll be a dramatic addition to the skyline, and one of the city’s tallest buildings. (It’s expected to break ground in 2018.)
As the CEO of JAHN, Mr. Jahn has been responsible for many commercial and residential buildings in the American Midwest. He was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Architects in 2012.
We caught up with him to discuss the lack of surprise in luxury real estate, why time is the greatest amenity to have in a home, and much more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Helmut Jahn: I have a lot of properties, and I’m very happy with all of them. I have an apartment in Chicago, one in New York and one in Berlin, and a home outside Chicago on a farm. All my dreams have come true in that regard. I also have a boat, and we do racing. For me, the dream property is an ocean or a lake. And I don’t have to pay for those.
I spend half a year traveling, so it’s about the variety of the places not just the property itself.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
HJ: Honestly, luxury can be interpreted as something very negative, since a lot of it is waste and excess. But it can also be very positive, because it’s lasting, gets better with time and it’s sustainable.
But many developers try to save every penny they can, and it can be very frustrating from an architect’s perspective. I think every architect feels that way to some extent.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
HJ: The biggest surprise is that there is no surprise. By that I mean that part of our goal in architecture is to innovate and do something new, but nobody is breaking out of the mold and being bold. Look at all the residential buildings going up, they’re all glass curtain walls, and not even designed by architects, but by companies that make the glass walls.
And the apartments are often very small, too. It should be about making people more comfortable—making ceilings higher, giving them outdoor space and more light.
The unfortunate thing is that architecture is eclipsed by real estate value issues. There aren’t enough people selling and renting these homes who believe in that architectural value. Look at 57th Street in New York, they’re all big and tall buildings, but that’s it.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
HJ: New York, Chicago, Tokyo, London and Berlin. The older homes there are the most luxurious.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
HJ: In Chicago, our apartment is like a house, at 8,000 square meters. I see the park and I can see the sun and the water. In New York, I’m on the 17th floor, and I look onto Park Avenue.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
HJ: They’re all different. The one in Chicago is a mid-20s building and it has that character, but the furniture and lighting is modern.
In Berlin, it’s all an experiment. It’s got glass floors and glass walls and there’s voice control for the lighting, touch control for the doors. Everything is automated. It was done about 12-13 years ago in the Sony Center. The idea is that this is what an apartment could be in the future.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
HJ: That one enjoys it, that you have time to be in it. The time one has to spend in it is the greatest amenity.
MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
HJ: For me, it was not always important what the apartment looked like, but always important that it was well located; I always lived near the lake. And it’s not just the apartment itself, it’s also important to me how I walked in the building, how I got to my apartment.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
HJ: Home is a personal thing, so it’s hard to make a generalization. But one problem with new developments is that they have very small apartments because that’s the only way they’re affordable. For new condos, you’re not just selling the apartment, you’re selling the amenities too. There are some with an incredible number of amenities— basketball courts, running tracks, pool(s), and quite frankly that hurts some of the older properties because they don’t have those things.
— Mansion Global (@MansionGlobal) April 12, 2017
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