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Prentice Reprieve


With the stay of execution for Prentice Hospital extended through the end of June, Landmarks Illinois released a reuse study for the threatened clover-like structure designed in 1974 by Bertrand Goldberg. Considered by many to be a hallmark of sculptural modernism, the building sits within a research corridor of Northwestern University, the building’s owner. Northwestern says it needs the space to expand and would like to double the space, an amount allowed by zoning.

Three architects worked pro bono on the reuse study, but out of concern for offending Northwestern, a potential client, two did not want to discuss the project. The third, Vinci/ Hamp, specializes in historic preservation.

Jim Peters, president of Landmarks Illinois said that the building has about 350,000 square feet of space, though the group is unsure how much is actually usable. He added that the unique cantilever supports an open floor plan that could work well for laboratory uses. The study also explored office and residential options, uses that the University said do not fit its needs. Other options include shaving off a non-original fifth floor addition from the building’s base and replacing it with a green roof that would nicely accentuate the thrust of the cantilevered quatrefoil. The reuse plan also suggests replacing dark glass with a translucent wrap curtain wall.

Peters said that the building provides visual relief on a corridor dominated by big block architecture. And while aficionados think of the building as a landmark, “It’s not landmarked,” said Al Cubbage, vice president of university relations. Cubbage pointed out that the university has a “stellar record” of adaptive reuse and maintenance of their buildings and noted that Northwestern spent $20 million to restore Harris Hall, considered one of the most iconic buildings on campus. “I don’t know enough about the [landmarking] process,” he said. “But we’re looking to fulfill our mission, which is providing research and education. We’ll certainly take a good look at their material, but we’re trying to maximize the use of the land in that area, which is limited.”


Originally published on May 26, 2011

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