Streeterville to Become More Bland

One of the few non-box-shaped buildings in Streeterville has a date with a wrecking ball.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Northwestern University wants to tear down the old Prentice Womens’ Hospital (320 East Huron Street) and replace it wit a new building.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and there were lots of murmurs that this was coming on the day that the new Prentice Womens’ Hospital and Maternity Center (251 East Huron) opened.

The building was designed by Bertrand Goldberg, the same mind behind beloved round buildings that are Marina City (300 North State Street).

To be honest, Prentice hasn’t aged well.  The concrete is stained.  The windows are sub-standard.  The podium is beyond dated. But it’s a significant landmark, and represents one of the major works of architecture erected during an age when architecture was in flux, and architects were permitted to take chances.  The building was purpose-built around the experience of childbirth, unlike most buildings these days, in which the activities inside are forced to conform to the square of the exterior.

So, does the building have a chance?  It’s hard to say.  On one side is the very powerful, very influential, very moneyed institution that is Northwestern University.  On the other side, this is a fight that will happen after Mayor Daley has left office, so preservation groups might stand a chance.  Preservationists also have SOAR in their corner.  The NIMBY group is at least as influential and was once as moneyed as Northwestern.  Both sides are accustomed to getting their way.

On a personal note — As someone who has waited almost five hours sitting in a chair in what is supposed to be Northwestern’s “emergency” department, perhaps Northwestern should spend less money on shiny new offices and advertising, and more money on patient care.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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