Prentice Women's Hospital
by: chicago designslinger
[Prentice Women’s Hospital (1975) Bertrand Goldberg, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
It’s hard to imagine that the architect of these round lobes went to Germany in the early 1930s to study at the famed Bauhaus under the tutelage of Mies van der Rohe, known for an adherence to straight lines and 90 degree angles. What’s even more amazing is that when a young Bertrand Golberg left Germany in 1934, after the rise of the Nazis, he went to school at Chicago’s Armour Institute, soon to become the Illinois Institute of Technology where the Department of Architecture would become world renowned under the directorship of his former teacher, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. And he had such a rapport with his mentor that Goldberg would serve as Mies’ translator when the German-speaking architect met Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1930s. So how did this young man with a Miesian upbringing give birth to these round towers? In 1955 Goldberg said, he “received this terrible shock when I realized that Mies was not a man of his time.”
[Prentice Women’s Hospital and Maternity Center Building, 333 E. Superior Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Bertrand Goldberg burst out of the Miesian mold with his cylindrical Marina City Towers in 1959 and never looked back. The cloverleaf of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Women’s & Maternity Pavilion continued on the curvilinear-formed theme, which allowed for an interior floor plan that eliminated the long, traditional hospital corridor with the nurse’s station stuck at one end. The outer edges of this circular plan were lined with patient rooms clustered around a central core containing the nurse’s station, floor access, and support services, which made for a better patient, and care provider, interaction. When the Institute of Psychiatry took over a floor of the building, doctors found that the design played a large role in the positive treatment and therapy of their patient population.
[Prentice Women’s Hospital Building – Institute of Psychiatry, Streeterville, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Goldberg’s pavilions served their purpose well. The hospital was designed to handle 3,000 births per year and by the turn of the 21st century, Prentice was handling more than double that amount. With a need to expand, and to integrate advancing technologies, Northwestern Hospital left the Prentice pavilions and opened on a new, nearby maternity and psychiatric care facility in 2007. Goldberg’s groundbreaking, concrete cylinders now sit empty. The building, under the ownership of Northwestern University, will probably be torn down in the next few years to be replaced by a research facility. Preservationists are urging the university, and the community at large, to save and preserve this unique Chicago treasure. An update. After a vote by the city’s Landmark’s Commission to designate the building, the head of the Department of Housing and Economic Development which oversees the Commission’s staff, wrote an extensive report in support of demolition. Court battles ensued, and just a few days ago, on March 22, 2013 the city issued a demolition permit to Northwestern.