Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital


Landmarks Illinois’ annual list of the ten most endangered buildings in the Chicago area came out yesterday. Two of the buildings struck me as noteworthy:

  • The Castle Car Washon Ogden Avenue in Chicago. It’s just another 1920s commercial structure, hardly an endangered species around here. However, the car is the city’s last intact historic gas station structure on Route 66. I’ve never quite understood the romantic myth surrounding Route 66, any more than I understand the Elvis phenomenon. I wonder, though, if fifty years from now we’ll still feel the urgency to preserve the remnants of Route 66, or will it fade from public consciousness the same way the Erie Canal did–and, arguably, the Erie Canal is a much more historically significant thoroughfare.
  • Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern University (above, in a Tribune photo by Candice C. Cusic). My son was born here, so I spent three bleary-eyed days there. The building looks much from the outside than from the inside, where it’s pretty careworn. It strikes me now (I had other things on my mind when I was there) that Prentice may help explain why modernist buildings tend not to age very well, and why they land so quickly on endangered buildings lists. Goldberg’s brand of modernism isn’t as technologically-inflected as, say, Mies’s work, but Prentice has a space-age flair to it. But as the technologies within the building become obsolescent, so does the building. Beaux Arts buildings, I don’t think, suffer from this type of decay.


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