The top brass in the field of design have long supported preserving Chicago’s Old Prentice Women’s Hospital. Now proposals to save the embattled Bertrand Goldberg building may have economics on their side, too, according to a new report commissioned by advocates who hope to convince owner Northwestern University not to demolish the four-pronged curvilinear tower.
On the heels of a surprising, if tenuous, victory in court, preservationists gathered Thursday evening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation to celebrate the opening of Reconsidering an Icon: Creative Conversations About Prentice Women’s Hospital, an exhibition that showcases re-use proposals for Bertrand Goldberg’s threatened icon.
Some of the 71 ideas presented addressed Northwestern University’s stipulations for high-density wet-lab research space on the site, while some imagined other uses for the cloverleaf tower and its blocky podium.
A bizarre parliamentary maneuver two weeks ago granted and subsequently revoked landmark status for Bertrand Goldberg’s embattled Old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, leading some to speculate about legal recourse for a coalition of preservationists who have fought owner Northwestern University’s plans to demolish the building. Today members of that coalition took their battle to court, alleging the Commission on Chicago Landmarks “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority.”
New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman waded into the controversy embroiling Chicago’s old Prentice Women’s Hospital Wednesday and wound up soliciting a unique solution from Jeanne Gang that has already garnered praise from the coalition of preservationists fighting to save the building from demolition.
Noting the “familiar” tone of the dispute between landowner Northwestern University, who wants to demolish Prentice to make way for up to 500,000 square feet of medical research facilities, and preservationists seeking landmark status for the distinctive 1970s Bertrand Goldberg structure, Kimmelman called for a third approach: incorporate old Prentice into a new design on the site. As the pendulum begins to lean towards demolition, with 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilly saying he supports Northwestern’s decision, the critic asked Gang what she thought.
More than 60 architects flocked to the side of Bertrand Goldberg’s embattled Prentice Women’s Hospital Wednesday, calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to ensure the concrete cloverleaf’s permanent place in Chicago’s skyline.
“The legacy of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital is unmistakable. It stands as a testament to the Chicago-led architectural innovation that sets this city apart,” reads the open letter, whose cosigners include Frank Gehry, Jeanne Gang and the partners of SOM. “Chicago’s global reputation as a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements.”
Yesterday that National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital had made its annual 11 Most Endangered List, bringing national attention to the fight to save the quatrefoil-plan, concrete building. Also yesterday, the local group Save Prentice staged a rally outside the building featuring speakers including Zurich Esposito of the Chicago AIA and Jim Peters from Landmarks Illinois.