Demolition of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital Scheduled

Any Porthole in a Storm

I had thought the Bertrand Goldberg designed Prentice Women’s Hospital was already demolished years ago, but apparently not.

As Rahm Emanuel prepares to takes office May 16, the first big historic preservation battle of his mayoralty is taking shape: Northwestern University is gearing up to tear down the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, designed by Bertrand Goldberg, the architect of Marina City, and replace it with a new medical research building.

If the university wins city permission for demolition, it could be wrecking the boldly sculptural, brilliantly engineered high-rise at the very time the Art Institute of Chicago is celebrating it as part of a major exhibition of Goldberg’s work. “Bertrand Goldberg: Architecture of Invention,” opens September 10 and runs through Jan. 8, 2012.

Such a glaring juxtaposition, with creativity displayed on the museum’s walls and ransacked outside them, would reveal to the world anew that Chicago destroys architectural landmarks as fast as the city builds them. And it would demonstrate just how hard it can be to save leading examples of mid-20th Century modernism. Although widely admired by architects, old Prentice is by no means beloved by the broader public. Some liken it to a prison.

Located at 333 E. Superior St., the 36-year-old high-rise is unquestionably a major work in Goldberg’s career.

Preservationists have already laid the groundwork for a fight, meeting on old Prentice with downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). “He’s one of the people who said you need to show how it can be reused,” said Jim Peters, president of Landmarks Illinois. Reilly didn’t return phone calls asking for comment. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the preservationists have taken a cue from his emphasis on finding a new use for the building.

Three Chicago architectural firms worked pro bono for Landmarks Illinois to prepare a study which looks at whether old Prentice could be re-used for offices, apartments or a research lab. The study makes a compelling case for the latter, arguing that the four quadrants of the former maternity floors could be sub-divided into research team areas and that the common space once occupied by nursing stations and nurseries could work well as a central breakout space.

(click here to continue reading Cityscapes: Northwestern wants to tear down Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital; preservationists have other ideas.)

I’d be pleased if the city found a way to preserve this building somehow, but I wouldn’t expect it to happen.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.