First Prentice Women's Hospital
Backstory and Context
The concept of Prentice Women’s Hospital began in 1970 when the Passavant Deaconess Hospital and Wesley Hospital consolidated. Bertrand Goldberg was commissioned that year to design the new hospital, which combined the once separate facilities of Chicago Maternity obstetrics, gynecology, and Northwestern Institute of Psychiatry under one roof. Remaining true to his Modernist architecture philosophies, Goldberg designed one of the most unique and recognized Brutalist style buildings in the modern era. Perched atop a 5-story rectangular base sat a 9-story concrete cantilevered quatrefoil (cloverleaf shape) tower. Prentice Women’s Hospital became the first building in the world to be constructed with the use of CAD, computer-aided design. The cantilevered design of the concrete tower eliminated the need for structural support columns which opened up more interior space and created more design flexibility. Inside the concrete tower, each floor was arranged in quadrants with the center core possessing four nursing stations that were each responsible for a small group of patients placed along the outer perimeter of the floor. This design revolutionized the model of patient care.
Prentice Women’s Hospital opened in 1975 and continued to operate until 2007 when Northwestern moved operations into a newly constructed hospital nearby. Instead of repurposing Goldberg’s Brutalist creation, Northwestern made plans to demolish the building in order to construct a new facility at the same location. Preservationists, architects, planners, and other like-minded groups and individuals came together to protest the hospital’s demolition. A five-year battle ensued to save the building. Northwestern University ultimately won the battle and received a demolition permit in March 2013. The demolition of the Prentice Women’s Hospital began in October 2013 and continued into 2014. The National Trust for Historic Preservation cited the hospital as one of their ten historic sites lost in 2013.
The demolition of the Brutalist styled Prentice Women’s Hospital marked a significant loss for modern architecture. While the building was not aesthetically appealing, and in many ways quite ugly, the sheer uniqueness of its design warranted its preservation for future generations. Many preservationists and architects consider the loss of the Prentice Women’s Hospital comparable to the loss of Penn Station in New York City – the careless demolition of a priceless structure for the sake of real estate development.
Lange, Alexandra. Demolition of Prentice Womens Hospital by Bertrand Goldberg and Penn Station. Architect Magazine. October 31, 2013. January 21, 2019. https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/demolition-of-prentice-womens-hospital-by-bertrand-goldberg-and-penn-station_o.
Betsky, Aaron. Save the Weirdness of Prentice Hospital for Weirdness's Sake. Architect Magazine. August 6, 2012. January 21, 2019. https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/save-the-weirdness-of-prentice-hospital-for-weirdnesss-sake_o.
Prentice Women's Hospital. National Trust for Historic Preservation. January 21, 2019. https://savingplaces.org/places/prentice-women-s-hospital#.XENBg6fMzOQ.
Stott, Rory. AD Classics: Prentice Women's Hospital / Bertrand Goldberg. Arch Daily. October 6, 2018. January 21, 2019. https://www.archdaily.com/432976/ad-classics-prentice-women-s-hospital-bertrand-goldberg.