If Chicagoans don’t yet know about the movement to save Streeterville’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, many will be learning about it during their daily commute over the next few months. Starting January 16, a new Save Prentice ad will debut on Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) “L” trains, letting the three-quarters of a million Chicagoans who ride local CTA trains everyday know just how important this modern masterpiece really is.
A group of local architecture and preservation organizations including AIA Chicago, docomomo chicago midwest, Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Preservation Chicago have joined forces to create the Save Prentice Coalition. Their goal: to educate the public — and public officials — on the significance of architect Bertrand Goldberg’s innovative design for his 1975 Prentice Women’s Hospital. Northwestern University, owner of the property, is still remaining tight-lipped about its plans for the site but many fear that demolition of the nearly-vacant “Old” Prentice is almost a sure thing.
“Old” Prentice’s Chicago-born architect Bertrand Goldberg (1913-1997) is probably most famous for his Marina City project, a cutting edge mixed-use residential complex when it was first completed along the Chicago River in 1964 and still seen today as a pretty inspiring use of poured-in-place concrete. However, Goldberg’s creative planning style and technological wizardry were best exhibited in his hospital designs from the 1960s and 70s. His design for Prentice Women’s Hospital was one of his best and is the only one of his hospital designs built in his own hometown.
Efforts to persuade Northwestern to protect Prentice so far haven’t succeeded. This past year, Landmarks Illinois funded a series of reuse plans that Northwestern has rejected. And the Commission on Chicago Landmarks has so far refused to discuss landmarking the building and even resisted bringing the issue up for a commission vote. The Save Prentice Coalition hopes that the CTA ads will draw more attention to the significance of and threats to Goldberg’s work.
In a town that’s as proud of its twentieth-century buildings as Chicago is, it’s time that folks take notice of threats to modern masterpieces like Prentice and take action to stop they’re demolition. It’s pretty clear now that if we want Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital to be around for at least another thirty-five years, the public is going to have to make its voice heard. With more Chicagoans standing up for home-grown modern architecture, it could persuade the Landmarks Commission to finally take a look at the merits of landmarking such a significant modern building.
Visit www.saveprentice.org to learn more about the building and what you can do to help save it from the wrecking ball.