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Architecture Groups Offer Ideas To Redesign, Reuse Prentice Hospital

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CHICAGO (CBS) – As a Cook County judge granted the former Prentice Women’s Hospital building a three-week stay of execution, the Chicago Architecture Foundation opened an exhibit that features more than 80 designs that would preserve the structure.

Northwestern University spokesman Alan Cubbage has said that the university can see no way in which the existing Prentice building could be incorporated into the medical research facility it intends to build on the site, at 333 E. Superior St.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago Architectural Club and the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects disagree.

A design competition that would re-use the 1975 Bertrand Goldberg-designed building drew entries from 71 individuals or teams. Ten architectural firms and renowned architect Jeanne Gang also were invited to submit designs.

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Gang submitted a proposal for a 680-foot tower that would rise from Goldberg’s concrete cloverleaf.

But the winners of the design competition were 20-somethings Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta, whose design would absorb half of Prentice into a new, mirrored research building that would still appear visually to complete the Goldberg design.

Both said their goal was to give both preservationists and Northwestern what they wanted.

“This is why we went to the University of Chicago to explore the labs there to really get a sense of what a state-of-the-art (research) facility means,” Villacorta said. “Once we researched that, we realized, yeah, we can do this in this format.”

Marsollier and Villacorta said they realized that some preservationists would be outraged by their design because half of the Prentice building would be “cut” into the new research building. But they said they are unabashed fans of modernist architects, such as Goldberg, who died in 1997 and is best known as the architect of Marina City.

View A Gallery Of All Competition Entries Here

Future Prentice Competition Details

Another architect in the audience called Chicago the “Hollywood” of architecture, while others said modernist designs in many cases do not command the respect of older, classic Adler & Sullivan or Burnham & Root designs.

“Modernist buildings are always kind of endangered all over the world because they are not easily accepted by the public,” Villacorta said. “I’m not sure how we combat this.”

Foundation President Lynn Osmond said displaying the designs to the public, through Feb. 8 in the Foundation’s 224 S. Michigan Av. lobby, is one way to show the public how re-use can be accomplished, although the other uses suggested by some designers ran the gamut from hotel to museum.

Osmond said that Northwestern’s trustees have been invited to tour the exhibit. So far, she said, the university has not expressed any interest.

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