It looks as though the powers that be have won the battle and Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Women’s Health Hospital, long lauded by preservationists, is about to go bye-bye. It was a valiant effort to fight to save the Bernard Goldberg designed Pavilion, but once King Rahm (Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel) got behind the “progress” championed by Northwestern, it appears that the Landmarks’ Commission were more in tune with falling in place, removing Landmark status it had previously endorsed.
Prentice Pavillion, on the right, stands bare today most likely awaiting demolition of the Women’s Hospital erected in 1967. Photo ©2012 Wayne Cable (.com)
According to Wikipedia, Prentice was originally the Prentice-Stone Pavilion and is situated between North Fairbanks Court and North Lake Shore Drive. It was designed by Bertrand Goldberg, Chicago architect of Marina City, its more famous sibling. It features a “9-story concrete cloverleaf tower with oval windows cantilevered over a rectangular 5-story podium” (Wiki).
Architect Bertrand Goldberg‘s design is known for several features. It was among the first structures that made construction history with its use of early computer-aided design techniques, which took months of the design phase period. Its unique cloverleaf shape is believed to be ”the only example of its type anywhere in the world” according to structural engineer William F. Baker.
A beautiful spring day brings to life the Chicago Streeterville neighborhood with the original Prentice Women’s Health Hospital in this photo by ©2012 Wayne Cable (.com), all rights reserved.
The original Prentice Women’s Health Hospital building is of particular significance to many Chicagoans, myself included, as it was the birthplace and delivery center of thousands and thousands of children, including my own two. I remember feeling comforted by the nautical window shape looking out over the blue Lake Michigan after the birth of our first son. The second one’s birth happened during a foot high blizzard, which meant I was seeing nothing but snow the second time.
Vacant lot owned by Northwestern Hospital sits in front of Prentice Pavilion. Preservationists and architects urged the hospital to build their new research facility on the vacant land.
The Women’s birthed a new building in 2007, vacating Goldberg’s structure. Currently, Northwestern claims they need to knock down the old Prentice building to build a new research lab to foster the study of solutions for cancer, heart disease, etc, which apparently can only be properly done in a new building. They are not so much minding the architectural heritage of Chicago as much as they want to move forward with their desired facility. Numerous architects, scholars and preservationists urged the Landmarks Commission to act in best faith for the country and city’s architectural heritage.
Last week was the death knell for the structure. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted to remove preliminary landmark status for (the) old Prentice Women’s Hospital, which almost surely means adieu to the old Prentice.
Bertrand Goldberg made a poiniant remaerk about the preservation of existing architecture and whether american cities should be obligated to retain historically significant arhcitecture. He said he “didn’t mind” if his buildings were torn down, because new construction helped drive the economic engines of progress. Yet his son, Geoff Goldberg was among those urging the Chicago Landmarks’ Council to “show the world” Chicago values its architectural heritage and contributions. The younger Goldberg presented a letter to the Council this past November, obviously to no avail.
Here’s what the structure looked like this from Galter Pavilion this past December:
Prentice Pavillion, Chicago, in photograph by Chicago Photographer Wayne Cable, featured Bertrand Goldbergs’s unique architecture.
Even the urgings of The National Trust for Historic Preservation of National Treasures fell upon deaf ears in the Windy City. 60 architects including 5 Pritzker Architecture Prize winners joined the efforts to stay the demolition as mentioned in this article this past September. I am reminded through all of this of the previous failed efforts to preserve other examples of significant Chicago architecture, This would most noticeably include the work of famed architectural photographer and preservationist Richard Nickel and others, who worked tirelessly and, int the cae of Nickel, ultimately gave his life to the preservation efforts to document and save piece by piece Louis Sullivan‘s Chicago architecture. It was the famed Stock Exchange‘s demolition site that ultimately claimed Nickel.
Chicago Stock exchange building by Adler & Sullivan Architects was destroyed in 1972
Richard Nickel, an early Chicago architectural preservationist and champion of Louis Sullivan’s architectural legacy.
All photos except the last two are ©2012 Wayne Cable (.com), all rights reserved. Cable is a Chicago USA based architectural photographer. Chicago Seen is his blog. Wayne Cable’s Chicago Stock Photography and Chicago Architectural Photography is licensed through Wayne’s studio.