The Save the Prentice Wrecking Ball: The Monument to Bruce, designed by Design With Company, is a response to the situation of the Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago which aims at creating a new narrative for the building’s afterlife. By combining literary and architectural narrative strategies, their design tries to recapture the narrative and produce the universe we need to steer us toward the conversations we want to have. This story is not a means to an end, it is the ends. More images and architects’ description after the break.
We refuse to rehearse the false choice as outlined by the University or the Chicago preservationists – the demise of the Brutalist icon is now a foregone conclusion. Therefore, these images and text shouldn’t be understood as a proposal in the traditional sense of the word. The last design for expansion had failed. They called it M.U.F.F.I.N. T.O.P.: Moving Up From Figural Icons Now, To Overcome the Prentice. The pedaled shell proved too confining. The high strength concrete of the Prentice Building required a special steel alloy wrecking ball to withstand the force of the repeated blows. An extraordinary ball was forged. The inscription reads: “Proceed through concrete obstacles for health and prosperity in Chicago.”
A case was constructed to protect and display the ball on its journey between the steel mill and its ultimate battlefield. People affectionately called the ball Bruce. A parade was arranged and the ball lumbered through the Chicago grid. It was so heavy, the “float” could only turn left in loops. People chanted “Bruce” but it sounded like “boooo…” Celebration marked the first hoisting of the ball. It was destined to become the greatest landmark Chicago had seen.
Now, the retired wrecking ball rests in a monument on an empty Chicago lot. The timber-framed podium welcomes the occasional visitor. The ball swings, caught in perpetual motion. It traces and re-traces the quatrefoil arcs of the Prentice footprint, also the ancient Celtic symbol for luck.