Old Prentice Women's Hospital—the cloverleaf-shaped Bertrand Goldberg building that Pritzker Prize winners petitioned to save—has been fully demolished. In a photo sent to The Chicago Architecture Blog, Dr. Robert L Vogelzang of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine documents the sight preservationists feared for years: an empty lot at 333 East Superior Street. Northwestern plans to build a 40-story tower for biomedical research there. The design by Perkins + Will features a wavy glass facade and connections through the Streeterville site. Its construction is expected to go in phases, although a firm schedule is not set. Construction could start next year and wrap up by 2018. Ald. Brendan Reilly's office will hold a public meeting to discuss the “proposed final design” Tuesday, September 30 in the Hughes Auditorium at 303 E. Superior St. Prentice may be no more, but the ultimately unsuccessful preservation battle to save it remains one of the city's most bitter in recent memory.
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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.
Cook County Judge Neil Cohen swatted down Friday a lawsuit preservationists filed to save Prentice Women’s Hospital, but ordered an extension of the threatened Goldberg building’s stay of demolition for another month. Preservationists sued to overturn a decision by the Chicago Commission on Landmarks that ultimately denied protection for Prentice in November, asserting the commission violated its own rules of conduct by considering economic concerns over architectural merits. “The Supreme Court says I can't overturn decisions of legislative bodies based on their failures to follow procedure,” Judge Cohen said, offering the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States and Landmarks Illinois another month to amend their complaint. "We appreciate the care with which Judge Cohen is considering the case," read a statement from the Save Prentice coalition. The group unveiled Jan. 3 a series of proposals for preserving Prentice while meeting Northwestern University's development goals. Michael Rachlis, who is representing the preservation groups in court, said he will consider raising due process issues when the matter returns to court on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m.
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. The winning proposal, by Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta, was entitled The Buildings are sleeping, you should go and wake them up, she says. Named for a Robert Montgomery quote, the proposal cleverly slices the existing Prentice in half, maintaining its characteristic symmetry in reflection. Bisecting an architectural icon is a radical proposal by preservation standards, but it essentially preserves the form while meeting Northwestern’s specifications. Superimpositions: Prentice as Additive Icon, by Noel Turgeon and Natalya Egon, took second place. Their subtly provocative suggestion was to stack new buildings atop Prentice, creating a “vertical timeline of icons” over time. If we raze our icons every 35 years, it seems to suggest, we should have no problem piling on a few more. The Superimpositions team was not so wry in their presentation, but other suggestions were outright sarcastic. A solicited entry from Tim Brown Architecture plainly laid out the four steps to achieving his Probable Prentice, which described Northwestern’s reasoning as intransigent, unreasonable, and culminating in a boxy, mediocre replacement. Other proposed uses ranged from The Hotel Bertrand to Out to Pasture, in which a hollowed out Prentice stores grain amid the pastures of a completely leveled Streeterville. Third place winners James Wild et al. brought some bucolic charm to their Bridging Prentice design, as well, adding a green roof to the existing podium and stretching it into an elevated park that runs eastward beneath a new 500,000-square-foot research facility. The Chicago Architectural Club, CAF and AIA Chicago cosponsored the competition, which serves as this year’s Chicago Prize Competition. The show will be on display in the Architecture Foundation’s Lecture Hall in the lobby of 224 S. Michigan Ave. through February 8, 2013. Check out more from the winners in the gallery below or flip through all 71 competition entries in the official flip book:
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.
The ongoing saga of Bertrand Goldberg’s Old Prentice Women’s Hospital continues, with members of the Save Prentice coalition delivering a petition with more than 3,500 signatures Monday to the offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Brendan Reilly, and the Landmarks Commission. They include Pritzker-winning architects as well as preservationists and ordinary citizens from Chicago and beyond. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks said earlier this month it would take up the issue before the end of their fall session, possibly as early as October 4. Emanuel, Reilly, and the Commission could grant landmark status to the iconic 1975 structure but have so far remained neutral on the issue.
Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital has become the cause célèbre for architectural preservationists from across Chicago and beyond, now garnering five more Pritzker-toting allies amid mounting pressure for demolition. Robert Venturi, Tadao Ando, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, and Eduardo Souto de Moura added their names to a letter sent to Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month from more than 60 architects, including Frank Gehry. Dan Coffey and Jack Hartray of Chicago, George Miller of New York City, Denise Scott Brown of Philadelphia, and Bjarke Ingels of Copenhagen also joined the chorus of designers calling on Chicago city officials to grant the iconic cloverleaf structure landmark status. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently completed a landmark recommendation report, but Chicago’s Commission on Landmarks, the City Council, and the mayor will ultimately determine whether its owner can proceed with its plans to demolish. AIA Chicago and Landmarks Illinois have long supported landmark designation for the building, which Northwestern University wants to demolish so it can construct a medical research tower. Preservationists counter Northwestern owns vacant land nearby that should be considered for new construction. Reuse options for Prentice, vacant since 2007, abound—a reuse study by Landmarks Illinois found rehabilitation as a lab, office or residential tower would take less time and cost less than new construction on the site. Goldberg designed the hospital to actualize his vision for community-building through architecture. The four bays in the building’s unique quatrefoil floorplan were meant to preserve sightlines and encourage interaction between and among patients and staff. Its concrete shell, designed uncharacteristically for the time with the aid of computers, is a unique feat of engineering permitting column-free floors. It was hailed as a structural engineering milestone upon its completion in 1975. “The legacy of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital is unmistakable,” the letter reads. “Chicago’s global reputation as a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements.” There is a Commission on Chicago Landmarks meeting this Thursday, and Prentice supporters are trying to put the issue on the agenda, but the Commission has not responded. They have not weighed in on the issue in more than a year, even ruling a coalition representative who tried to broach the topic out of order during the last meeting. UPDATE: The Commission's agenda does not include Prentice.
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.” Northwestern University, Prentice’s owner, announced their intention to tear down the vacant hospital last year. But Alderman Brendan Reilly helped secure a stay of execution for the building, galvanizing a preservation movement that has earned the support of the Chicago AIA, Landmarks Illinois and AN's editorial page. Prentice Women’s Hospital moved to a new facility down the street in 2007, opening up the distinct building to arguments of functionality in a high-density neighborhood. Coming from a major research university, Northwestern’s demolition plans suggest preservationists stand in the way of progress. But a reuse study by Landmarks Illinois found rehabilitation as a lab, office or residential tower would take less time and cost less than new construction on the site. Preservation would also “provide visual relief,” they wrote, “for this portion of the Streeterville community, which is increasingly dominated by dense and boxlike high-rises.” Indeed Prentice’s structurally unique cantilevered concrete shell is an architectural asset in the neighborhood. It is the only hospital Goldberg designed for his hometown, and its quatrefoil plan emerged from his belief that architecture should strengthen community through human relationships. The worldwide list of architects calling for its preservation shows Prentice continues to bring the design community together, almost 40 years later.