Chicago Preservationists Fight to Reuse Iconic Building

Steven Yaccino reports on the ongoing controversy over the proposed demolition of Prentice Women's Hospital, designed by famed Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg, as officials continue to skirt the issue.
August 10, 2012, 5am PDT | Emily Williams
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The former Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago has joined the ranks of America's endangered architectural landmarks, as preservationists play the waiting game with city officials unwilling to stake out a position on its possible demolition.

Designed by the late architect Bertrand Goldberg in 1975, the Prentice is known and admired for its clover-leaf shape, a highly innovative approach to hospital design at the time. But others, writes Yaccino, see the building as nothing more than a vacant eyesore that should be razed for new development. The building has been sitting vacant for a year on land that is now owned by Northwestern University, who have plans to build a new medical research facility in its place after a study revealed that adaptive reuse for the intended purposes would not be feasible.

Preservationists and local advocates are fighting back and urging officials to consider alternative uses for the iconic building. "We feel like the building is infinitely reusable because of the way it's designed," said Christina Morris, from the Chicago office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In a letter to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, over 60 leading architects addressed their opposition to the proposed demolition and what it would mean for the future of the city: "Chicago's global reputation as a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements." As of now, Emmanuel has yet to state his opinion on the case, and the city of Chicago seems to be holding its breath as it awaits the fate of one of its signature buildings.

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Published on Friday, August 3, 2012 in The New York Times
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