Exhibition: Reconsidering an Icon
Chicago Architectural Club, Chicago Architecture Foundation, and AIA Chicago partnered to make possible "Reconsidering an Icon", an exhibit focused on alternative solutions and critical conversations about the fate of one of Chicago’s most architecturally significant modern buildings, Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital.
Reconsidering an Icon was open from November 16, 2012 until March 28, 2013 in CAF’s Lecture Hall at 224 S. Michigan Ave.

This exhibition featured the winning entries of the 2012 Chicago Prize Competition: Future Prentice, as well as all 71 proposals submitted from 13 countries.

The Chicago Architectural Club also invited 10 young Chicago architects and designers to submit proposals or commentaries to further the discussion. These were exhibited alongside with a proposal from Studio Gang Architects.


Bureau Spectacular
Team: Jimenez Lai (Principal), Felipe Oropeza 

All Hail Prentice
The crowning of Prentice Women’s Hospital is an act of love in twofold. First, it suggests that the original building does not need to be torn down – a compact and technologically advanced research facility can be built on top of the original building, and that the interiors of the existing body can be modified to fit the standards of today. Second, the crown shape hints at ideas of being regal, sacred, venerable and princely – ideas that declare immunity on the Crowned Prentice Women’s Hospital because of its indispensable values. As a gift of gratitude from the city – the crown is an insignia of distinguishing mark, recognizing the building’s many battle scars from the many debates it rattled, and debates it continues to stir. Without the debates it generated, politics of aesthetics cannot exist, and the cast of architectural characters that make up what we know as the Culture of Chicago Architecture would begin a path that veers too correct.


Team: Grant Gibson (Principal), Sarah Blankenbaker, John Donoghue

The Insider - Buildings within a Building to Save a Building on a Building
In 1975, 310,750 square feet of hospital space were developed in an unprecedented fashion. The strictures of typical hospital design were thrown out the window to produce a building that both transformed the way doctors and patients interact on the interior and to present an inspiring public face to the exterior.

In 2013, 5 million square feet were developed in an unprecedented fashion. Faced with a conflict between private interests that wished to raze a building that had lost its purpose and public interests that wanted to preserve an architectural monument, the mayor removed burdensome zoning regulations from the books in a deal that placated both sides. In exchange for keeping Prentice Hospital intact, Northwestern Memorial was given the freedom to build anything they wished on the opposing vacant lot. Wanting to get the most value out of the land, it decided to build one of everything, including the research labs Northwestern University had wished to replace Prentice with. In addition to these 800,000 square feet of labs, extended stay suites for researchers, offices for medical innovation, university commons and lecture halls, a luxury boutique hospital, and patient family lodging were all housed in buildings within the new building. Given the diversity and scale of uses the building enveloped, the building became a city on the inside, transforming the way the hospital interacted with the university (which had previously been two VERY DIFFERENT entities) and the city at large. It had nice curves too.


Team: Clare Lyster (Principal), Joanna Nika

Kid Condenser
 In its 33 years as a maternity hospital (1975-2008), Prentice delivered upwards of 400,000 babies. Preserving its service to the city’s youngest demographic, the project proposes to develop the old hospital as an intensive mixed-use space for children --a kid condenser-- comprising a K-6 elementary school; a children’s library; a theatre; a dance room; a children’s bookstore and a café, which are all located in the plinth of the building, with a new home for the Chicago children’s museum located in the 7 story cylindrical structure. The unique structure of this part of the building is exploited by removing one disk from each floor plate to create a series of double height spaces that spiral around the building. Bold graphic landscapes--cloud; bubble; forest; meadow; spot and mound occupy these voids and act as lounges and tactile play spaces inside the museum.  A museum garden occupies the vacant lot opposite. The school has a dedicated entrance off Superior St. while the other program is accessed from Huron St. The proposal combines cultural, educational and recreational program with bold colorful public spaces to infuse the old hospital site with a new kind of kid urbanism.


Design With Company
Team: Stewart Hicks, Allison Newmeyer (Principals)

Save the Prentice Wrecking Ball: The Monument to Bruce
The last design for expansion had failed. They called it M.U.F.F.I.N. T.O.P.: Moving Up From Figural Icons Now, To Overcome the Prentice. The concrete shell proved too confining.

The high strength concrete of the Prentice Building required a special steel alloy wrecking ball to withstand the force of the repeated blows. An extraordinary ball was forged.

The inscription reads: “Proceed through concrete obstacles for health and prosperity in Chicago.”

A case was constructed to protect and display the ball on its journey between the steel mill and its ultimate battlefield. People affectionately called the ball Bruce. 

A parade was arranged and the ball lumbered through the Chicago grid. It was so heavy, the “float” could only turn left in loops. People chanted “Bruce” but it sounded like “boooo...” 

Celebration marked the first hoisting of the ball.  It was destined to become the greatest landmark Chicago had seen. 

Now, the retired wrecking ball rests in a monument on an empty Chicago lot. The timber-framed podium welcomes the occasional visitor.

The ball swings, caught in perpetual motion. It traces and re-traces the quatrefoil arcs of the Prentice footprint, also the ancient Celtic symbol for luck.


Team: Mary Pat Mattson (Principal), Monica Cass

Of Style Site Matter Time
This is less a proposal than a reflection concerning evaluation criteria for the project. Instead of deeming our existence and creations as finite and closed, might these be scaled at the infinite, and in their very temporal nature be tied to the infinite. By living and practicing within a broader scale of time and space, we allow for growth and change. Our lives and work evolve, as in forest succession, through competition and reaction. 


HouseHaus + OCCO
Team: Martin Kläschen and Carl Ray Miller (Principals), Jason T. Chernak

PANOPTIC VOID Existing Condition: Object Within Void
The existing urban design of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital complex consists of an accumulation of single standing buildings. Bertrand Goldberg’s innovative design of the Prentice Women’s Hospital stands as the most expressive solitary object within this context.

Today Chicago’s most iconic hospital exists as a mere shell. A variety of constraints lead to this crisis threatening the further existence of the Prentice:
Economics; The low density of the hospital block.
Urban design; Free standing solids within void.
Interior spatial quality; Reduced natural light within stacked cross-organized plans.
Technical; Insufficient ceiling heights for contemporary medical mechanical systems.

Proposal: Panoptic Void Within Object
We wish to preserve the iconic architectural qualities of the Prentice; the unique form, the multiple panoptic organization and the material experience of the shell.
Our strategy implements the mentioned constrains as the following parameters of demand:
Economics; Increase the density of the hospital block.
Urban design; Embed void within one solid block.
Interior spatial quality; Increase the panoptic experience and natural light.
Technical; Increased ceiling heights to support contemporary medical mechanical systems.

The maximization of urban density on both sites. Stacking two thirds of the neighboring volume onto the Prentice block opens and dedicates new civic space to Chicago and increases overall natural lighting conditions.
Vertical and horizontal subtractions from the block mass supply natural light and stimulates spatial interaction. A horizontal void marks the original pedestal height of the Prentice.

The panoptic core contains vertical circulation that spatially interacts with the interior of the Prentice shell. The core structure consists of remnants of the original Prentice floors. Bridges mediate between these floors and the floor heights of the new surrounding hospital. These floating skyways weave the components of the hospital complex together.

Dream Garden
A space for momentary release from the realities of hospital life.
A space of hope, imagination and sensations.
A space that recalls the romantic imagery of Turner’s landscapes and the surrealist operations of Max Ernst’s dream worlds.
A space that spoils the senses.
A space that lives and revitalizes.
A space of recovery and retreat.
A space of spring and springs.
A space of inspiration through which the ruin creates a culture for its own preservation.


Kujawa Architecture
Team: Casimir Kujawa (Principal), Mason Pritchett, Patrick Johnson, Andrew Corrigan.

Two contrary positions have been presented regarding the fate of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital: either preserve or demolish.

Advocates for saving Prentice maintain that this building is architecturally and culturally significant and that it should be granted Landmark Status protection despite its relatively young age. Northwestern University has stated that the demolition of Prentice is the only way to effectively utilize the site for a new medical research facility.  

The ‘Preserve or Demolish’ debate ignores the possibility of a third option... Goldberg’s Prentice can be saved.  Northwestern’s specifications can be met. 


PORT Architecture + Urbanism
Team: Christopher Marcinkoski, Andrew Moddrell (Principals)

Nostalgic Amnesia
Although there are numerous artifacts supporting the case that the construction of Old Prentice was completed as early as 1934, Northwestern continues to allege it was built in 1975 in order to thwart preservation efforts.

Originally part of Passavant Memorial Hospital, Old Prentice remains as an unwanted leftover from before
Passavant (1865) merged with Wesley Memorial Hospital (1888) to become Northwestern Memorial Hospital in 1972.

If the public was conscious of Prentice’s true age, sentimentality might prevail and Northwestern could be stuck with
Goldberg’s iconic building indefinitely. Northwestern is instead exploiting the fact that the public is incapable
producing enough nostalgia for a 37-year-old building to insist upon Chicago Landmark designation.

After more than 78 years, Prentice will soon be gone.


Studio IDE
Team: Paul Tebben and Vladimir Radutny (Principals), Joe Signorelli , Fanny Hothan

Razing Chicago
“Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men.” – Richard Nickel

The government-endorsed push to demolish Prentice is a significant current event. Sadly, however, it represents just one in a much longer sequence of short-sighted actions. These tragedies have been repeated by a city which has all-too-often prioritized the rapid development of the 'new' over the thoughtful integration of the 'old.' Too many times in Chicago's short history, significant buildings have been hastily razed, leaving only quiet echoes of the great lessons they once offered. Many have fallen; few have been saved, but the sad and tenuous appreciation for Chicago's architectural history remains unchanged.

Our image does not aspire to answer the difficult question of how to breathe new life into this magnificent structure. It is instead a thoughtful gesture, hinged on history, meant to fuel the fight to keep it alive. How can we begin to assign new purpose to a building without first securing the commitment of its primary stakeholders? Before we speculate - before we create - it is imperative that a dedication to preserve our city’s history is elicited from these parties. They must realize the value of the treasure they hold in their hands and it is our job, as advocates for preservation, to harness all resources at our disposal to convince them. It is only then, with all parties devoted to a singular purpose, that the creative forces of the design community may be channeled into a newly-imagined future for Prentice.


Tim Brown Architecture
Team: Timothy Brown (Principal)

Future Prentice/Probable Prentice
Along with imagining the possible transformative re-purposings of Bertrand Goldberg's building, it might be worthwhile to also consider the outcome following its (now virtually certain) demolition.


Exhibition sponsors and partners: Chicago Architectural Club, Chicago Architecture Foundation, AIA Chicago and Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond.