Nearly a year after the scaffolding first went up during the fall of 2013, the demolition process of the original Prentice Women’s Hospital building is complete. All that remains of the former Bertrand Goldberg Modernist structure is an empty lot. The former hospital site, located in Chicago’s affluent Streeterville neighborhood, is owned by Northwestern University, which already has plans in place to redevelop the plot as part of its medical complex.
Prentice Hospital was named for Abra Cantrill Prentice. Its innovative design was intended to allow nurses and other medical professionals to service patients more efficiently. The tower served as a maternity ward, with nurses’ stations located in the center and patients’ rooms in each of four lobes surrounding the core. Goldberg’s concrete cloverleaf design was not only a feat of engineering, but was also one of the first to incorporate computer aided design (CAD) technology. Despite its innovative design, the hospital had a short life. After opening its doors in 1975, it was vacated less than 40 years later in 2011.
During the following two years, an active movement to save the hospital developed, including alternate designs by prominent architects like Jeanne Gang that incorporated the original Brutalist structure. Preservationists also unsuccessfully sought to obtain landmark status for the building from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in October 2013. Despite the prominent roster of supporters for preservation, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel supported demolishing the vacant building.
The old Prentice building was granted a temporary reprieve in November 2013 when Judge Neil Cohen issued a stay that reinstated the landmark status that the commission had first granted but then immediately lifted the previous month. The stay was lifted in March 2014 when Northwestern University, the owner of both the demolished structure and the lot on which it stood, won final approval to raze the building. In the meantime, prominent Chicago firm Perkins+Will was tapped to designed a sleek tower with a shiny glass facade to replace the demolished structure.
Although Prentice is no longer standing, Chicago is still graced with several of Goldberg’s designs. The architect, who died in 1997, incorporated his affinity for curved surfaces into Marina City, River City and the Hilliard Tower Apartments. The former two complexes are residential developments situated along the Chicago River. The Hilliard Tower Apartments development, located on Chicago’s near South Side, is administered through the Chicago Housing Authority.