Uncertainty increased about fate of Prentice Women's Hospital building which was pulled from Chicago Landmark Commission's agenda


More uncertainty for life of Architect Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital building looms. Building was pulled from the Chicago Landmark Commission's June 2 agenda at the eleventh hour.

Assuring the City that they would not apply for a demolition permit at any time in the near future, Northwestern University asked that Prentice be removed from the agenda. They say that this will give them the opportunity to further discuss the situation with city officials.

Strongly believing in the importance of preserving Goldberg's modern styled building, a coalition was formed a while ago. The coalition resulted from a partnership of Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago, DoCoMoMo, and the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

To demonstrate the viability for the potential of the university to use the building to meet current needs, the coalition produced a sixteen page reuse document, "A New Use for a Modern Landmark...A reuse Study for the former Prentice Women's Hospital Chicago, Illinois."

As described by Landmarks Illinois, "Prentice was considered groundbreaking for its cutting-edge architecture, advanced engineering, and its progressive design approach to organizing medical departments and services.  It received international press coverage and an award from Engineering News Record for its innovative tower and open floor-plate layout that eliminated the need for structural support columns."

"You will not find the structural solution to Prentice, which is an exterior shell cantilevered off a core, anywhere else in the world," says Geoffrey Goldberg, an architect and Bertrand Goldberg's son. "Prentice was the only one in which this was achieved." Take a tour of some historic photos.  Once on the Landmarks Illinois site, click on the photo and the slide show will begin.

From the perspective of Northwestern, the building has to go.  Their plans are to tear down Prentice and build a high-rise for research labs.  Northwestern's  associate vice president for facilities management, Ron Nayler,  says that Prentice is inadequate because its ceilings would be too low and it cannot meet modern tolerances for building vibrations, among other reasons. Furthermore, alternative uses do not fit the school's needs. In addition Nayler said,""We do not think it's worthy of being a landmark."

While the local community organization, Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR), is split on the issue of making Prentice a landmarked building but neither City Hall or 43nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly have issued a statement. Living, well established architects like Helmut Jahn and Jeanne Gang have written statements of support to keep the structure.

At the moment, the only sure thing is uncertainty. The uncertainty of whether the building could be declared a landmark. The uncertainty about what Northwestern's  real timing as per their statement "...not apply for a demolition permit at any time in the near future." The uncertainty about the position of Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Reilly and... the uncertainty list goes on.

For more information: Chicago Sun-Times; Chicago Tribune;Landmarks Illinois




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