Standing in front of the wrecking ball.

Marc Teer

February 20, 2013

Standing in front of the wrecking ball.

Here in Chicago there has been a debate raging about the fate of Prentice Women’s Hospital, a Bertrand Goldberg building, and this week its fate was determined - and its going down.

Since this summer, a variety of groups have come together, proposing alternative visions for how to accommodate the conflicting interests of preserving Goldberg’s work and accommodating the needs of Northwestern Hospital.

These visions culminated with a competition that the Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) developed in collaboration with AIA Chicago & the Chicago Architecture Foundation. 

What’s amazing is that over 100 architects and designers developed ideas (for FREE), in an effort to solve the problem of preserving the building while accommodating Northwestern’s program.  The CAC also provoked 10 firms to develop their own projects addressing this challenge. 

All of these designs were presented at an event hosted at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  After the winners were announced, a discussion broke out, and I think the most provoking comment offered came from Martin Klaeschen: 

“We need to find an infrastructure to preserve the modern heritage that Chicago owns….I think that's a main problem [in the United States] we don't know how to preserve buildings.”

The winning entry is the perfect example of a hybrid approach to solving a preservation problem like this.  This country has reached a place in history that needs to account for both our architectural heritage and the thriving economic realities that have made this heritage so valuable.

We are inspired by the relentless efforts of the Chicago architecture community, and those who contributed their ideas to this discussion and hope that their efforts inspire others to stand in front of the wrecking ball when this problem comes to their neighborhood.

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