The clean lines and curvilinear forms of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital, in Streeterville, are under attack.
The building, which most Chicagoans still refer to as the Prentice Women’s hospital, was designed and constructed by the renowned Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg in 1975. Emblematic of Goldberg’s modernist style, the hospital features the curving lines and soft geometry that so often appears in his work.
Many Chicagoans believe the building to be an iconic part of the Streeterville landscape—and for good reason. The building is visible from Lake Michigan, and it can even be seen from certain vantage points along the Chicago River. But—if the administrative department of Northwestern University has its say—it may not be visible for much longer.
Northwestern University purchased the building in 2007 with the hope of converting it into a working medical center. But representatives of the university claim that the design of the building is outdated and obsolete, and university officials have begun the lengthy process of requesting permission to demolish the building. According to these officials, the medical building’s low ceilings and inefficient use of space make it nearly unusable, and they would rather build anew on the property than put time and money into repairing the existing structure.
But preservationists, activists, and architectural historians are reluctant to allow this landmark building to be destroyed. Many of them have moved to have the building added to a list of seven of Chicago’s most endangered buildings. And a Chicago alderman has asked the university to postpone its plans for demolition until the public has had a chance to air its opinions.
Only time will tell whether the public will side with the university, or with the architectural enthusiasts, and it’s impossible to guess what the university might do if it discovers that the majority of the Chicago population does, in fact, want the building to be preserved.
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