The Prentice Women’s Hospital

The loss of a Beton Brut

prentice womens hospital bertrand goldberg chicago mid century modern brutalism structural experssionism conceret architectural heritage
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Above: Once located in Chicago, Illinis the Prentice Women’s Hospital design by Bertrand Goldberg, 1974.

In the heart of one of my favorite cities once stood the Prentice Women’s Hospital. Located in the Streeterville district of Chicago’s Near North Side the unique Brutalist design was conceived by architect Bertrand Goldberg and featured a nine-story concrete quatrefoil tower with oval windows cantilevered over a rectangular 5-story podium. Aside from its unique shape, which structural engineer William F. Baker once called, “the only example of its type anywhere in the world”, the complex curvilinear structure made construction history with its use of early computer-aided design techniques. Engineers at Bertrand Goldberg & Associates adapted software used by the aeronautical industry to create a 3D mapping technique which sped up the design by months. Innovative, forward thinking, and a modernist joy to behold the building’s time in Chicago, however, would be brief.

prentice womens hospital bertrand goldberg chicago mid century modern brutalism structural experssionism conceret architectural heritage

Photo: bertrandgoldberg.org

The evolution of a concept. Click on image for full view.

Began in 1971 and completed in 1974 the design for the new hospital was commissioned after the consolidation of Passavant Deaconess Hospital and Wesley Hospital and would be named for Abra “Abbie” Cantrill Prentice. Innovative not only in its design but also in its construction techniques the building was as much a result of engineering artistry (if such a thing exists) as design. After serving the city of Chicago for 37 years the Prentice Women’s hospital was vacated in 2011 and the owners, Northwestern University, announced plans to demolish the building and replace it with a medical research facility. Chicago is proud of its architecture and architectural history so the news of the proposed demolition was met with tremendous resistance with architects, preservationists, and designers worldwide calling for the saving and repurposing of the structure.

Construction of the Prentice Women's Hospital. Click on image for full view.

prentice womens hospital bertrand goldberg chicago mid century modern brutalism structural experssionism conceret architectural heritage

A proposal created by Studio Gang Architects to repurpose the Prentice Women’s Hospital. Photo: studiogang.com

The Prentice Women's Hospital, Chicago. Click in image for full view.

In September 2012, the Chicago Landmarks Commission stated it would hold a hearing about the building’s future but despite a collective, concerted effort to save the structure on March 18, 2013, Northwestern announced the approval of demolition. On September 2014, the building was no more.

The demolition of the Prentice Women's Hospital. Click on image for full view.

prentice womens hospital bertrand goldberg chicago mid century modern brutalism structural experssionism conceret architectural heritage

Architect Bertrand Goldberg (left, 1913 – 1997) with the model for Marina City, 1959.

 

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