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The Destruction of a Classic: Time-Lapse Captures Demolition of Chicago’s Prentice Women’s Hospital

Following the extensive preservation battle over Bertrand Goldberg's iconic Prentice Women's Hospital, the Chicago landmark was demolished a few months ago to pave the way for Perkins+Will's new Biomedical Research Building for the Feinberg School of Medicine. The four year preservation struggle was marked by repeated appeals to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and Mayor Rahm Emanuel with attempts to place the building on historic registers, proposals to adapt it for modern use, and design competitions to gain public opinion on the future of the building. Ultimately, the outpouring of global support by architects and preservationists to save Prentice fell short of the political agenda of progress, prioritizing future development over preserving the city's past. 

Video: Tightrope Walker Nik Wallenda Crosses Chicago's "Skyscraper Canyon"

Last night, thousands in Chicago turned out to cheer on tightrope walker Nik Wallenda, as he performed two tightrope walks involving some of the Windy City's most famous buildings: Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City Apartments and Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates' Leo Burnett Building. Wallenda set two Guinness World records, the first for the steepest ever tightrope walk as he climbed from the 588-foot Marina City to the 671-foot Leo Burnett Building, and then for the highest blindfolded tightrope walk as he crossed between the two Marina City towers. The stunt was covered live by Discovery, whose footage comes replete with dramatic sweeping shots of a mid-walk Wallenda, made miniscule against the backdrop of Chicago's famous Skyscraper Canyon.

The Absent Column: Examining the Prentice Preservation Battle

In light of the extensive demolition that has already taken place at Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in downtown Chicago, we present to you this short film that examines the hospital’s preservation battle and poses the question, “Who determines the future of the past?”

Is The Demolition of Prentice Hospital Another "Penn Station Moment"?

This article, by Michael R. Allen, was originally published on Next City as "Prentice Hospital Could Become Modernism's 'Penn Station Moment'"

When the concrete cloverleaf of Prentice Hospital sprouted from the Chicago ground in 1975, its award-winning design met the praise of critics and the admiration of many Chicagoans. Architect Bertrand Goldberg drew from Brutalism, but with a symmetry and grace that distinguished Prentice from more angular works in that style.

This week, as Goldberg’s famous work is pulled apart by wreckers, nothing about its loss seems symmetrical or graceful. Within 40 years, the building transitioned from a proud symbol of civic renewal and design innovation to the victim of old-fashioned Chicago politics. The controversy surrounding the demolition of Prentice, however, injected the preservation movement into an urban design discussion with a presence not seen in a long time.

Three Firms Shortlisted to Design Prentice Successor

Shortly after confirming the demise of Bertrand Goldberg’s beloved Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, Northwestern has released a shortlist of three firms competing to design the school’s new biomedical research facility. This comes with the support of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and despite strong backlash from architects and preservationists worldwide.

The finalists are: 

Preservationists Surrender to Hopeless Battle for Prentice

In response to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ decision to reject landmark status to Prentice Woman’s Hospital for the second time in three months, the two preservationist groups challenging the City of Chicago have withdrawn their lawsuits. This eliminates the last barrier standing in Northwestern University’s way to demolish the historic, Bertrand Goldberg structure for a new biomedical research facility. 

“We felt that we had done as much as we possibly could to demonstrate the significance of the building and ways to reuse,” stated Christina Morris, a senior field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We just couldn’t see that we’d have any other outcome.”

For many, this news is disheartening as architects and preservationists from around the globe have fought in solidarity for much of the past year in an attempt to illustrate the importance of this one-of-a-kind structure. 

More after the break...

Northwestern University confirms the demise of Prentice Women’s Hospital

Sunshine’s statement also announced Northwestern’s plan to invite “many of the world’s best architectural firms, including Chicago firms” in an international design competition for the new structure.
Sunshine’s statement also announced Northwestern’s plan to invite “many of the world’s best architectural firms, including Chicago firms” in an international design competition for the new structure.

The new year is off to a rough start for the preservation of modern architecture, as Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Woman’s Hospital appears to be joining Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Center on the demolition list for 2013. Northwestern University senior vice president for business and finance, Eugene S. Sunshine has confirmed that, despite strong opposition from architects and preservationist worldwide, the university will be replacing the historic, Chicago icon with a new biomedical research facility. 

Winners of the Future Prentice Competition Announced

First Prize: "The Buildings are sleeping, you should go and wake them up, she says."
First Prize: "The Buildings are sleeping, you should go and wake them up, she says."

Amidst the longstanding, heated battled to save Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic Prentice Woman’s Hospital, the results of the 2012 Chicago Prize Competition: Future Prentice have been announced! Presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, in collaboration with Chicago Architectural Club and the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the international competition intended to act as a platform for public debate about the future of the controversial Chicago landmark.

More information and the winning proposals after the break…

Mayor Emanuel supports Prentice Hospital Demolition

© C. William Brubaker via Flickr user UIC Digital Collections
© C. William Brubaker via Flickr user UIC Digital Collections

Despite strong opposition from preservationists and architects world-wide, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced his decision to support the demolition of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital. In a op-ed piece released by the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel supported his stance by arguing that Northwestern’s new biomedical research facility would “bring 2,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment” to Chicago. Emanuel believes Goldberg’s “vision is alive in Chicago beyond one building” and allowing Northwestern to build the new medical center is crucial in keeping Chicago at the forefront of scientific innovation.

Architecture of Invention: A Bertrand Goldberg Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago

Courtesy of Archive of Bertrand Goldberg via The Art Institute of Chicago
Courtesy of Archive of Bertrand Goldberg via The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is hosting a retrospective for Bertrand Goldberg, famed architect of Marina City (1959–1967), two cylindrical corncob-shaped commercial/residential towers.  The exhibition contains a range of Goldberg’s work; it begins with his work at the Bauhaus and the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition and follows his career into his visionary plans of a postwar America.  The exhibition will feature architectural drawings, models, photographs, along with graphic and furniture design.

Follow us after the break for images of Goldberg’s work.

Prentice Women’s Hospital by Bertrand Goldberg Listed as Illinois' Ten Most Endangered Buildings

Courtesy of Landmark Illinois
Courtesy of Landmark Illinois

This concrete, clover leaf-shaped structure, which was built in 1975, will likely suffer a fate common to many vacant and disused buildings. After approximately four years of vacancy, this Bertrand Goldberg-designed building will likely be demolished when ownership will revert to Northwestern University this year. Although Goldberg’s organic architectural designs – such as this one – were widely influential, none of his major Chicago works are protected by local landmark designation. Prentice Women’s Hospital 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” notes Geoffrey Goldberg, an architect and Bertrand Goldberg’s son. “Prentice was the only one in which this was achieved.”