Preservationists are up in arms over a paint job made by the new owners of Bertrand Goldberg’s brutalist River City condominium in Chicago. Crews are currently brightening the exposed concrete walls that line the building’s soaring atrium to a stark shade of white. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, some consider it an act of vandalism. Built in 1986, the iconic mixed-use building features a serpentine design and a lightly undulating facade full of arcing windows. Its 10-story atrium is lit by thinly ribbed glass openings on the roof. The structure is situated in the city’s South Loop neighborhood and hovers over the Chicago River on a series of plinths, making it accessible by boat. Though it's not a landmarked building, it's a staple of Goldberg’s Chicago architecture and impressive to many. Its textured grey tones are enhanced by daylight, but its new owners want to create an even more modern feel to attract residents, hence the new white color. Last month, the property was co-purchased by its new ownership, a group of real estate investors, for $90.5 million. The sale marked the largest condominium deconversion in Chicago history, According to The Real Deal, it took two years of negotiations to sort out the deal so that the owners could transform the 449-unit complex into a fully renovated rental apartment building. Painting the atrium is step one towards that goal. Well-known local critic Lee Bey told Crain’s the decision is “a shame,” and that the building’s expression is best understood within its curved walls. “It really is a significant change to a space that Goldberg thought out very carefully,” he said. “He brings this curvilinear ‘street’ inside the building, with the sun coming in from above. He thought of it as a street in Paris.” Under its new ownership, River City is set to receive an updated lobby, a new fitness center, co-working spaces, and communal areas. The existing 250,000 square feet of office and retail space will also be upgraded.
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Landmarks Illinois, working with, the City of Elgin, Illinois, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) have released an extensive study into the reuse of the Elgin Laundry Building. The long span accordion-shaped structure was designed by Bertrand Goldberg and sits the former campus of the Elgin Mental Health Hospital. Currently vacant, the study explores how the space could be reused as a multipurpose recreational facility. Landmarks Illinois listed the 1967 structure on its 2009-09 Chicagoland Watchlist, a list of endangered historic building in the Chicago area. In the past, Goldberg’s status as one of Chicago’s Modernist masters has not been enough save his buildings from the wrecking ball. SOM’s reuse plans leverage the building’s 110-foot by 240-foot column-free interior. The hope is to provide a space that can be programmed for maximum flexibility, without compromising the original design. If realized, the Laundry Building would become an extension of Elgin’s existing central relaxation complex. The proposal includes the possibility of 350 spectator bleachers, locker rooms, administrative offices, refurbished glass end walls, and a floor that could be used for basketball, indoor soccer, and other team sports. Over the years the building has suffered some cosmetic wear, but it is still structurally sound. SOM has also included plans for making the building more sustainable. Possible power generation from photovoltaic cells and rainwater harvesting are part of the study, as well as improved daylighting and natural ventilation. This initial proposal is still in the speculative stage, but if pursued, the city and designers, hope to engage the public in realizing the project. The full study can be found here.
Though Marina City, Bertrand Goldberg’s vanguard mixed-use project on the Chicago River, became an official landmark February 10, 2016—less than one year after its application—the architecture community still held its breath. After the tragic loss of Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital less than two years before, no one wanted to take any chances protecting the towers, affectionately referred to as the “Corncobs.” Completed in 1967, the two 65-story spires, along with a theater and two 10-story office buildings, were substantially funded by the Building Service Employees International Union, a janitorial trade union. The union believed building middle-income housing in urban centers would help reinvigorate the ailing downtown and bring in new janitorial jobs for the large project. This was a shift from the more suburban low-income housing the organization had been building for its members. Goldberg’s unconventional ideas of life in the city made a good match for this innovative approach to job creation. Envisioned as a “city within a city,” Marina City intended to provide everything its residents would need or want for living, working, and playing. Few projects even today offer the sheer number and diversity of amenities that Marina City does. With office space, a theater, a gym, restaurants, a bodega, the famous balconies, car parking, and, of course, boat parking, the concept was like no other housing project ever built. It would later influence other historic projects, including the John Hancock Tower. The construction methods used, especially for the towers, were also novel. Poured-concrete cores were built to full height and topped with cranes. Those cranes then lifted formwork and concrete to construct each floor radiating from the cores. When the towers were complete, they were the tallest reinforced-concrete buildings in the world. Considering all of this, many felt that landmark designation was long overdue, and the fate of Prentice served as a painful reminder. Becoming a landmark is not easy though, even for older buildings, and landmark status carries with it certain responsibilities regarding upkeep. Marina City’s status also adds to a larger conversation about the preservation of modernist architecture, in particular that of oft-abhorred expressionist and Brutalist projects. Achieving a landmark title in Chicago can be a long and political journey. Just as in many bureaucratic processes, the project will undergo a series of reports, garner recommendations, and secure resolutions before it can be presented the city council for a vote. Marina City’s quest began July 9, 2015, with a preliminary landmark recommendation made by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. The reports ordered by the city after that initial recommendation found that Marina City fulfilled five landmark criteria, one of which was its innovative design by a distinguished architect that adds cultural value to the city. Another aspect was its “distinctive physical appearance” that represents a “familiar visual feature of the City of Chicago.” Now that the complex’s status is official, any major renovations or new construction must pass through the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Aside from greater protection from demolition or excessive exterior remodeling, landmark status affords the building’s owners a handful of economic incentives such as state and federal tax credits directed at rehabilitation, as well as the waiving of permit fees. Though many feel the influence of Marina City on the world of architecture was already clear, only time will tell if the example set by its landmarking will help protect other concrete wonders in our city centers. Marina City joins Mies van der Rohe’s IBM Building (now the AMA Plaza) as one of the few modernist buildings designated as a Chicago landmark.
Developers tap Perkins + Will principal to help redevelop site adjacent to Bertrand Goldberg's River City
Plans for 2,700 new homes along the Chicago River have some neighbors and realtors calling a long-vacant lot near the Willis Tower by a new name. “River South” refers to a few sites, among them: a 7.3-acre riverside parcel between Harrison Street and the River City condo complex designed by Bertrand Goldberg. As Crain's Chicago Business reports, that's where developers CMK and Lend Lease are planning five towers with nearly 2,700 residential units, anchored by a 47-story building with 626 units. The developers tapped Perkins + Will principal Ralph Johnson to draft a master plan for the area. Whether or not the River South moniker sticks, the area has generated renewed interest from real estate watchers. Two other Chicago developers, D2 Realty and Phoenix Development Partners, have previously hinted at a large, mixed-use development on a 1.6 acre-parcel nearby. According to Crain's, developer Related Midwest is in talks to develop another 62-acre property at Roosevelt Road and the Chicago River.
Perkins + Will’s beveled, glassy facade looks likely to replace to a modernist icon whose long battle for preservation ended earlier this year. Last month Northwestern Memorial Hospital released three finalist designs for its new biomedical research center, the successor to Bertrand Goldberg’s partially demolished Old Prentice Women's Hospital. Northwestern spokesperson Alan Cubbage told the Tribune, “the combination of the elegant design and the functionality of the floor plans were key.” Construction on the $370 million project could start as soon as 2015, finishing by late 2018 or early 2019. Eventually reaching 1.2 million square feet, the medical research facilities would be built over two phases of construction, culminating in a 45-story tower. The cost of phase two has not been determined and would be in addition to the $370 million first phase. Community group Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) last month laid out their hopes for a more "iconic" building than those proposed in an open letter to those involved with the project. The other finalists were Goettsch Partners, working with Philadelphia-based Ballinger; and Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill Architecture, working with Boston’s Payette Architects.
An update to our story from yesterday: Northwestern University released many more images from the three candidates vying to build a successor to the site previously occupied by Bertrand Goldberg’s old Prentice Women’s Hospital. The new images include floor plans, interior renderings, and additional elevations of the three buildings. The three finalists whose designs now go to the Northwestern board of trustees for a decision are: Goettsch Partners and Ballinger; Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and Payette; and Perkins+Will. Construction is expected to start in 2015, with the approximately 1.2 million square feet phased in over time. Prentice Women's Hospital, the building previously occupying 333 E. Superior St., was the subject of a heated and ultimately doomed preservation effort. Demolition on the distinctive cloverleaf structure began in October. Peruse the full galleries here: Goettsch/Ballinger; AS+GG/Payette; Perkins+Will.
Northwestern University released images of the building that could replace old Prentice Women's Hospital Thursday. The three finalists vying to design a successor to Bertrand Goldberg's curvilinear icon are: Goettsch Partners and Ballinger; Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill and Payette; and Perkins & Will. After a long and high-profile struggle to save Prentice, preservationists were discouraged by what they saw as a raw deal. A short documentary released in October is the latest in a series of post-mortems on that contentious process. Northwestern plans to begin construction on the Feinberg School of Medicine Medical Research Center at 333 E. Superior St. in 2015. The University’s board of trustees will pick the final design. Review the submissions here:
Perkins + Will, Goettsch Partners, and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill will compete to design a successor to Bertrand Goldberg’s celebrated Prentice Women’s Hospital, which Northwestern University will soon demolish. Booth Hansen will serve as the local architect of record. Northwestern, whose politically expedited approval from the Landmarks commission angered preservationists, selected the three firms from a larger pool based on their responses to a Request for Qualifications. The winning firm will be chosen by December, according to their written timeline, but no construction work is planned until March 2017, according to Curbed. Goettsch also designed Northwestern’s lake front Bienen School of Music, which is currently under construction.
The slow and tortured demise of Chicago's Prentice Women's Hospital now has an official stamp: according to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern University was issued a demolition permit for the Bertrand Goldberg cloverleaf last Friday. Wrecking crews will be on site in a few weeks after asbestos abatement wraps up, and there are sure to be protesters around the construction fence. Of course, as seems all too common, the city is also busy readying soldiers for the next preservation battle. The 1957 Edo Belli-designed Cuneo Memorial Hospital is targeted for demolition, but Uptown residents have reached out to Preservation Chicago for support seeking landmark status. The group listed the building on its 2012 list of seven most-threatened structures in the city. Add this to what happened to Prentice and it isn’t a good year to be a midcentury modernist hospital in Chicago.
Amid the latest in a series of temporary reprieves, Bertrand Goldberg’s former Prentice Women’s Hospital was again denied landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism. “I have this suspicion that [owner] Northwestern [University] has put before us a false choice,” said Commissioner James Houlihan, who nonetheless voted along with all of his fellow commissioners to deny the 1975 building landmark status. The commission Thursday reprised, in a way, a vote taken in November, in which they recognized the litany of evidence qualifying Prentice as an architectural landmark, voted to grant the building landmark status, and subsequently revoked their own decision in a second, almost unanimous vote. (The sole holdout during that vote, Christopher Reed, resigned at the end of 2012.) Their reason for doing so, said commission Chairman Rafael Leon, was a provision in municipal code that called on them to allow testimony from the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development. The jobs and tax dollars promised by new construction, they concluded, outweighed the building’s architectural significance—logic that preservationists took issue with on several levels. In December the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council claimed in court that the commission “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority,” when it denied the building landmark status by considering economic matters so prominently. Judge Neil Cohen dismissed that suit in January, but not without raising concerns over the commission’s transparency. “The commission maintains that it did not violate the landmarks ordinance or any other law,” Leon said when it came time to discuss Prentice. To show their methods were “beyond reproach,” he said, they would again hear public testimony. Jeff Case, a principal at Holabird & Root, was among the design professionals who opposed preservation, saying Prentice had “outlived its useful life.” “The building has moved on, and so should we,” he said. “333 East Superior will not be missed.” Carol Post of Thornton & Tomasetti concurred, citing structural problems in the building’s clover-shaped concrete shell. Still many more echoed the sentiments of an open letter signed in July by more than 65 architects, calling on the commission to reject the recommendation of the Department of Housing and Economic Development that previously swayed them to withhold landmark protection. “A Walmart will always generate more revenue than a water tower,” said Preservation Chicago’s Jonathan Fine. Christina Morris, a senior field officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Chicago office, similarly rebuked the commissioners for appearing to sidestep their civic duty. “You have an obligation,” she said, “to protect Chicago’s cultural heritage.” Since the commission’s November decision, preservationists have also attempted to meet Northwestern’s arguments on their own terms. Architects submitted four proposals for reuse that also included new buildings to satisfy Northwestern’s stated development needs. They claimed saving the Goldberg structure would result in an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. Northwestern dismissed those proposals Thursday in a statement that called their economic assumptions “deeply flawed.” The four alternatives were “not viable,” said Northwestern’s Eugene Sunshine, because of structural challenges presented by Prentice and because some of them relied on developing nearby vacant land not owned by Northwestern University, but by Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. Commissioner Houlihan asked Sunshine if it was disingenuous to suggest the sister organizations could not get together and work out a solution to that problem. Sunshine said it was not. Dean Harrison, president of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, later testified that NMH had "long-standing plans" to build something else on the site, but did not provide a timeline for that development. Though Thursday’s decision could mark the end for preservationists in a long and heated fight, another court hearing is set for February 15.
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. Jim Peters, former Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, led the Save Prentice coalition Thursday. Placing the building in the context of architectural landmarks as catalysts for economic development, the group revealed several “counter-proposals” for reuse and an economic impact study that found reusing Prentice and building elsewhere onsite or nearby would generate "significant upfront and ongoing economic benefits." They accepted the University’s economic stipulations as a baseline; Northwestern has stated its proposal to demolish Old Prentice Women’s Hospital and rebuild onsite would create 2,500 temporary construction jobs, 2,000 permanent jobs, and $390 million annually in net economic impact for the city. Those benchmarks were cited by the landmarks commission and community groups urging demolition. The proposals presented Thursday by Save Prentice promised to deliver those same economic benefits from new buildings constructed onsite and across the street on another vacant property owned by Northwestern. They also claimed rehabilitation of the Goldberg structure would generate an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. “Prentice is an additive element,” said Christina Morris of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “You only get more by including it.” The four proposals include a master-planning approach for Prentice and the surrounding area, a 36-story tower cantilevered partway over Superior Street to the North (which would require air rights from the city), and a curved tower that frames Prentice from the northwest corner of the site. Kujawa Architecture’s proposal provides “a distinct visual marker of the biomedical research corridor,” according to principal Casimir Kujawa. After a procedurally questionable snub from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in November, preservationists sued to obtain temporary landmark status for Prentice. Their victory surprised some observers, many of whom had written off preservationists’ chances when Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he supported Northwestern’s demolition plans. On the heels of the court’s decision, which called for more time for public consideration of preservation and reuse options, the Chicago Architectural Club, CAF, and AIA Chicago unveiled the winners of their competition imagining alternate uses for the mostly vacant building. The winning entry by Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta was included in the counter-proposals released Thursday. “It’s not too late,” Peters said. “The building still exists.”
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.” The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council, calls on the court to send the Prentice decision back to the commission for reconsideration. It echoes procedural complaints first made before the commission even met Nov. 1, when members of the Save Prentice Coalition decried a meeting agenda that apparently “pre-orchestrated” the failure of the proposal to protect Prentice. Commissioners first voted to recognize the building’s merits for preservation and granted it landmark protection; they then voted two hours later, during the same meeting, to revoke that protection. The basis of the second vote was an unusual presentation from the commission of Housing and Economic Development, which argued new construction would bring jobs and research dollars that supersede the importance of preserving Prentice. Today’s lawsuit alleges that the council was not permitted under its guiding ordinance to consider economic matters in it decision. A judge will consider the suit this afternoon. The Chicago Architecture Foundation today opens its Reconsidering an Icon show, which will feature 71 proposals for reuse of the building, compliant with Northwestern’s biomedical research requirements. The show will be open until February. UPDATE [3:58 p.m. CST]: Cook County Judge Neil Cohen granted Prentice temporary landmark status Thursday afternoon, preventing the city from issuing a demolition permit for now. “We’re going to do no harm to Prentice while this can be resolved," Cohen said. The next hearing is Dec. 7.