Introducing Prentice Women's Hospital

July 26, 2012 by Chris Morris

Welcome to the Prentice Women’s Hospital page! I’m Chris Morris, a senior field officer and the project manager for this National Treasure, and I’ll be giving you periodic updates on all of our activities here in Chicago. I’ve been working with a coalition of local preservation and architecture organizations for nearly two years in an attempt to save this unusual 1975 structure.

After many attempts, we finally secured meetings with the building’s owner, Northwestern University, and Chicago officials earlier this year, where we learned that Northwestern had absolutely no interest in considering any use for the site other than medical research labs. So, we’ve adopted several different approaches in an attempt to convince Northwestern and the city that there are many reasons they should reuse this groundbreaking building as part of their larger plans for the campus.

A reuse study completed last year clearly demonstrates that Prentice’s radical open floor plan is ideal for all kinds of functions, including office space or housing, and that the roof of the base can be converted into an incredible roof garden that would be a welcome oasis for students, faculty, and neighborhood residents. Our recent conversations with hotel architects and developers also suggest that the building could be converted into a very attractive and “mod” boutique hotel located just a few blocks from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

And working with a prominent local architecture firm, we just finished an architectural analysis and drawings of the neighborhood that illustrate how Northwestern can build their research labs on the existing large vacant parcels already on their Chicago campus, while saving Prentice for another use.

We presented all of this information to city officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel – along with an offer to bring architects, engineers, and developers to the table to develop more detailed reuse plans – in the hope that they will push Northwestern to seriously consider these options.

Finally, we took steps to prove that Prentice is a unique and iconic part of Chicago’s culture and history deserving formal recognition as a Chicago Landmark. Within the last month we prepared a detailed landmark nomination, which we’re presenting to city officials and the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to ask that they consider designation and protection of Prentice.

The research in the nomination was so convincing that it spurred over sixty architects to write an open letter to Mayor Emanuel requesting that Prentice be landmarked! Such a bold statement by so many internationally acclaimed architects like Frank Gehry and Jeanne Gang has generated lots ofgreat press, along with other public calls to protect Prentice with a landmark designation.

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