By Carlo Calma
At the heels of Ald. Brendan Reilly’s announcement this past week regarding his support of the demolition of the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, comes MacArthur Fellow and architect Jeanne Gang‘s strategy to save the defunct hospital.
The old hospital, located on 333 E. Superior in the city’s Streeterville neighborhood, was built in 1975 by architect Bertrand Goldberg, and was the original home of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s women’s health facilities. The hospital then moved to a brand new, one million square-foot facility at 250 E. Superior in October 2007. In early September, Northwestern Memorial Hospital became more vocal about tearing down the old building for a new research and laboratory facility.
Northwestern’s Plans and Reilly’s Support
Alan Cubbage, a spokesman from Northwestern, explained to CBS in early September that the university has gained broad support in demolishing the old facility, saying that the construction of a newer facility in its place would create 2,500 construction jobs, and ultimately 2,000 permanent research jobs upon completion.
“The city has to make the decision whether to move forward to landmark the building, or to issue Northwestern University a demolition permit,” Cubbag said to CBS.
Those supporting the university’s intentions of demolishing the old Prentice Women’s Hospital include the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Commercial Club civic committee, unions and medical and scientific leaders, according to the CBS article. Add to this list Ald. Reilly, who explained to the Chicago Tribune that he would, “allow the university to proceed with its plans,” in an Oct. 15 article.
Ald. Reilly did explain, however, that he remains “open to suggestions,” and that if there was a “Eureka moment,” he’d be all ears.
“The last thing I want to do is take down important architecture in the central business district,” Ald. Reilly told the Tribune.
Jeanne Gang’s Strategy
Since the university’s announcement regarding the demolition of the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, several members of the architecture community have voiced their support in preserving the building as a Chicago landmark.
In lieu of tearing down the old Prentice building, Gang presented her vision of constructing a 31-story, 680-foot skyscraper atop the facility’s cloverleaf-like structure to the New York Times.
Gang’s proposal would ultimately provide for 250,000 additional square-feet that the university can use for, “medical office, classrooms, restaurants,” and other facilities, according to the New York Times article.
Gang’s plan has gained the support of many in the architecture community including Ron Klemencic, president of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, a structural and engineering firm with an office in Chicago.
The Issue’s Current State
Cubbage explained to the Chicago Tribune that the university has “not talked recently” with Ald. Reilly about their plans for demolition, but “look forward to having the opportunity to do so.”
To learn more about the conservation efforts for the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, visit Save Prentice Coalition’s petition site, here.