As architect Bertrand Goldberg’s civic legacy was highlighted in his engagement with Federal regulators during the Marina City Project, another prominent building of his remains mired in a preservation struggle. The Prentice Women’s Hospital (pictured above) is considered an icon of modern design, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation just lost the fight to save it from destruction. Northwestern University, who owns the building, is seeking to demolish Goldberg’s former maternity hospital and construct new medical research facilities in its Streeterville location.
The battle itself is a common scenario and a large problem for cities. The question is whether or not economic development and progress should be hindered in the name of design and aesthetics. Mayor Emanuel supported Northwestern University’s plans for their potential to sponsor research advances and economic development, and even most of the neighbors in the Streeterville community favored demolition. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, after an initial decision by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to allow for demolition in November, filed a suit in Cook County Circuit Court claiming procedural violations and a rushed vote. Just a few weeks ago, the National Trust conceded defeat and dropped the suit, after the Commission held a second meeting to address the initial decision and voted once again in favor of razing the hospital, first constructed in 1975.
The Pro-Prentice groups tried to present alternatives that would incorporate the facility into Northwestern’s plans, but to no avail. The University repeatedly stated that the proposals didn’t fit their needs, and now plans to go ahead with the biomedical research facility, a facility that will have an estimated economic impact of $400 million. It’s too early to tell if the promise of this redevelopment scheme will be fulfilled, but the preservation struggle is over.
How does your city balance the need to preserve iconic buildings with growth?
Credits: Photographs by Andrew Kinaci. Data linked to sources.