No. 524 . 20 July 2011 
ArchitectureWeek

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Endangered American Places

by ArchitectureWeek

The Chicago building that formerly housed Prentice Women's Hospital is proudly unorthodox. Above a steel-and-glass base, in a sea of more-conventional rectilinear neighbors, the building's quatrefoil concrete tower rises banded with oval-shaped windows.

Designed by Bauhaus-trained Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg — best known for the twin cylindrical towers of the nearby Marina City development (1964) he designed — the Prentice tower's cloverleaf design was far from being simply contrarian. Goldberg sought to create a modernist architecture more organic than the International style's straight lines and boxes, which he came to consider dehumanizing. In hospital design, he intended to improve patient experience, which at Prentice translated into a bed tower with seven small patient floors, each divided into four lobes.

Designed for maximum flexibility, the 1974 hospital building was also structurally innovative. The tower is cantilevered from a central core, allowing for column-free, open-plan floor plates. The load-bearing concrete shell transfers loads diagonally back to the core via four large arches.

Despite its significance, this building is at risk of demolition. To bring attention to its plight, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the former Prentice Women's Hospital building to the 2011 list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places.   >>>

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