Can Rahm’s mind be changed? New ideas for saving Prentice Hospital

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel came down on Northwestern University’s side in its battle to raze the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, a building that preservationists want to save.

Is that the last chapter in the story?

Some architects hope not. Next month, architectural firms will put their ideas for saving Prentice while meeting Northwestern’s needs on display in a “Future Prentice” exhibition organized by the Chicago Architecture Club in partnership with the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Above is an image from one of the submissions. This one is from Kujawa Architecture LLC of Chicago.

To make it work, the plan calls for ceding air rights over Superior Street to Northwestern to make up for setting aside part of the site to preserve Prentice, which could then be used by Northwestern or a third party.

“The original Prentice stands independently of the plinth at it s base, and we pretty much used the same stragegies,” architect Casimir Kujawa said.

The architecture club received 71 entries from 13 countries. Winners will be announced Nov. 15.

The Chicago Architecture Club says on its website, “Prentice Women’s Hospital received international press coverage and an award from Engineering News Record for its innovative tower and open floor-plate layout that eliminated the need for structural support columns.”

But on Tuesday, Northwestern released a statement by Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance that said in part:

“We’re very pleased to learn that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is supporting Northwestern University’s position not to grant landmark status to the former Prentice Women’s Hospital on Northwestern’s Chicago campus. We are planning to present our case to the Chicago Commission on Landmarks Thursday, Nov. 1, and we hope to convince the commissioners to also support that position.

“Forcing Northwestern to preserve an outdated building that does not meet the University’s needs would have a significant detrimental impact not just on Northwestern, but also on the Chicago metropolitan area. Northwestern plans to build a new, state-of-the-art biomedical research facility on that site. Doing so will create approximately 2,500 construction jobs and 2,000 full-time jobs, have an annual economic impact of nearly $400 million and make Chicago a global leader in medical science.”

Read about the “Future Prentice” exhibition here.

Read an Oct. 31 Sun-Times editorial here.

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