In honor of Bertrand Goldberg's birthday this week (July 17), claass HAUS is taking another look at his design for the Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago.
In 1975, Bertrand Goldberg’s clover-shaped Prentice Women’s Hospital opened to international acclaim on Chicago’s Near North Side. The brutalist quatrefoil tower cantilevered over a rectangular podium stood as a shining symbol of the technological advances of the twentieth century. Its shape, a product of early computer-aided design, and its layout, a sensitive solution to resolving the physical distance between nurse and patient, made the hospital building one of the most celebrated and progressive structures of its time. Over the next few decades, Prentice Hospital would become a city landmark, but Goldberg’s unique form and innovative plan couldn’t outlast progress, and after the hospital relocated in 2007, the building was left vacant.
You know how the rest of the story goes (spoiler alert: the building was demolished, so here's a recap if you need one). But despite its historic loss, the building's design remains a remarkable piece of modern architecture. With its humanistic bent and inspired engineering, the Prentice Women's Hospital broke open the Modernist grid with its mammoth curving forms and rebellious composition.
Goldberg's Prentice Hospital cleverly combined several facilities (Chicago Maternity and Northwestern Institute of Psychiatry) into one function-driven form. The restrictive requirements of a hospital dictated the distinctive design- a "four leaf clover" tower (containing patient rooms) cantilevered over a rectangular plinth of post and beam construction (containing all other functions of the hospital). Inspired by anthropologists studying theories of human interaction and spatial orientation, Goldberg designed the tower as four small communities where space was organized to maximize efficient care from centrally-located nurses and encourage patient interaction. While patient support strictly determined the tower's form, the rectangular base of the building provided the greatest possible flexibility in order to accommodate future medical advancements and changing technology. Using early three-dimensional modeling software to daringly cantilever the walls from the building's central core (think Frank Gehry), Goldberg was able to create a monumental feat of engineering made even more impressive by the near-perfect execution of its construction.
No matter how you feel about Goldberg's architecture or Brutalism in general, you have to acknowledge the skill, vision, and pure audacity it took to design and construct a project like this one. The loss of the Prentice Women's Hospital will likely make it into the history books but as they say- that's progress (you can watch this "progress" below). You can find the tower that will replace Goldberg's concrete wonder here.
That's pretty much it for claass HAUS this week. Have a great weekend!
Image at top-
By Umbugbene (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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