News & Events

Prentice to be saved?

This page is a summary of discussions about saving Prentice Hospital. THe discussions took place in many forms and places, throughout 2012 and into 2013. There was a remarkable public effort to save Prentice was undertaken, but to no avail. They are worthy of note for their breadth and for the building of an extensive grass roots coalition building.

As of now (February, 2013), all the appeals for saving Prentice have been exhausted. NWU is moving forward with asbestos abatement, and then probably demolition later this year.

What follows below is a chronicle of the efforts to save Prentice. For the full story, start at the top and read down; else, scroll to the most recent news at the bottom of the page. If you only want to read the conclusion, jumping to the end will do the trick as well.

In 2011, The owner of the building, Northwestern University (NWU), indicated that they would like to see the building demolished, and that they need the site for new research facilities. With the opening of the Art Institute show on Goldberg, NWU (under direction from the City of Chicago) tabled that agenda until sometime later.

While few dispute the need for additional research, it has been pointed out that NW has two blocks of vacant land directly across the street, as well as other potential sites available to them. Those interested in saving the building built a broad coalition, including Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which listed Prentice as one of their 11 national treasures in order to save Prentice. Their agenda was to get Prentice on the agenda of the Chicago Landmarks commission, for which they believe it qualifies as a landmark, and then to save the building.

They updated their efforts on a facebook page called "SavePrentice": Save Prentice

Over the summer of 2012, eighty prominent architects, from Chicago and around the world, to signed an open letter to the Mayor of Chicago urging preservation of Prentice. Pritzker Prize winners Tadao Ando (1995), Eduardo Souto de Moura (2011), and Herzog and De Meuron (2001) joined Frank Gehry notable Chicago architect Jeanne Gang in signing this letter. Open Letter to the Mayor
In addition, remarkably, the SOM partners in the Chicago office released their own letter of support: SOM Letter

This has prompted the following coverage:
New York Times
Chicago Sun Times editorial
Chicago Tribune
Blair Kamin's blog posting, and again
Ed Lifson's 10 Reasons to save Prentice
Lyn Becker's blog posting
Chicago Tonight on WTTW
Paul Goldberger in Vanity Fair
Chicago Reader
Crains Chicago Business
Chicago Tribune, by Cheryl Kent
Lynn Becker's summary on 8.27.12
Chicago Reader by Deanna Isaacs, "Rahm's no-brainer"
Chicago Tribune, 9.3.12
Engineering News Record, Viewpoint by Geoff Goldberg, 9.5.12
ArtInfo, International News, 9.8.12
Chicago Tribune, 9.29.12
Chicago Tribune video at the site showing nearby open land, 9.29.12

In the month of October, there were several developments. First, at the request of NYT critic Michael Kimmelman, Jeanne Gang prepar, and commentary on the design, d a speculative design for locating the research tower above/over/on top of Prentice. It can be seen here:
NYT on Jeanne Gang's proposal, Oct. 17
Architect's Newspaper commentary, Oct. 17
Becker on Gang design, Oct. 17

In October, Lynn Becker laid out the facts quite clearly in a letter to the Mayor: Blogspot Open Letter to the Mayor, Oct. 16

In November, Prentice finally got its day in front of the Chicago Commission on Landmarks. Prentice was granted landmark status, only to have it rescinded two hours later:
Chicago Tribune Story Nov. 2
Sun Times story Oct. 31
Sun Times editorial Oct. 30
Lynn Becker's blog post
Stanley Tigerman argues for Prentice, Nov. 2
Geoff Goldberg's statement to CCL, Nov. 2

The Chicago Architectural Club, working with Chicago Chapter of the AIA and the Chicago Architectural Foundation, sponsored a competition for new ideas on how Prentice could be reused. This competition attracted 71 entries, plus another ten schemes invited, and is currently on exhibition at the Chicago Architectural Foundation (opening Nov. 15) in Chicago. Reconsidering an Icon: Creative Conversations about Prentice Women's Hospital
The CAF has also put together a significant page of weblinks about Prentice: Resources
A number of leading preservationists put forward alternative designs in January 2013 that both met NW needs and kept Prentice:
DNA, Jan. 3, 2013
Architecture Chicago Plus

On Nov. 15, Federal Judge Cohen questioned the process by which the Chicago Commission on Landmarks held their hearing, where they both gave and denied landmarks status in the same meeting. The judge put a hold on things pendiing clarifications.
Chicago Tribune: Preservationists sue, Nov. 15
Crains: City seeks to dismiss suit, Dec. 6

Ed Lifson on National Public Radio: NPR, Nov. 25
The Daily Northwestern:the Mayor and the University, Nov. 14
WBEZ on Mayor Emmanuel's encouragement of NW: WBEZ, Dec. 6
Reader on Emmanuel: Prenticegate, Dec. 5
Laura Hodes wrote a very thoughtful piece on Goldberg, progressive social ideas, modernism and jewishness in the Chicago Forward Goldberg versus the wrecking ball, Jan 8, 2013

Sent back the Chicago Commission on Landmarks by Judge Cohen, on Feb. 7, Prentice was again put back on the agenda. The results (not unpredictably) were the same as before: they voted 8-0 to accept the City Dept. of Housing and Economic Development's conclusion that the building of laboratories was more important to the city than saving the building, and that saving the building would impose economic hardship on NWY.

While few denied the import of labs, there was also the reality of the site: that there are two blocks of open land across the street, NWU will not build on Prentice site until 2015 at the earliest, and that with their 25 acres of land holdings in the neighborhood, their needs could be met in other ways.

Alternative planning and design proposal were presented, to no avail. Live coverage of the event can be found on SavePrentice on Facebook. Other coverage can be found here:

Lynn Becker's excellent coverage " "Landmarks Commission unanimously votes itself completely useless", Feb. 7, 2013
Chicago Tribune recommended Prentice come down, but questioned the process: Prentice Do-Over
Chicago Sun-Times coverage: Prentice again

At this point, the public discussions were over, and the fight to save Prentice stopped.