It’s all over except the wrecking ball for Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Woman’s Hospital. Today Northwestern University confirmed that the building will be demolished to make way for a biomedical research facility. As a nod to the fury of preservationists and architects who objected to the demolition of Prentice, the university claims it will “invite many of the world’s best architectural firms, including Chicago firms” to compete for the chance to design the replacement structure.
Whatever. The best architects thought Prentice should be preserved. Anyway, I’ve followed this story for a long time, in part because Prentice is a perfect example of how modernist buildings get no respect these days. (Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Center also has a date with a demolition team.) If Prentice was a phony neo-classical pile it would have a better chance of survival. I also followed the story because my son was born in the hospital in 2004 and I remember being struck by both the structure’s beauty and its neglect.
Alas, Prentice was perhaps too well-designed for its intended purpose, so it couldn’t be re-purposed for anything other than what it was–a maternity hospital. Now I know how distinguished buildings get demolish despite all the protests.