Photos Inside a Chicago Hospital Built For Pandemics

With Chicago coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many stories about how the city’s medical professionals and institutions are fighting the threat head-on. One of those places on the front lines is Rush University Medical Center.

Rush University Medical Center in December 2011

After weeks of preparation, Rush went into “surge mode” almost a month ago. Its hospital tower, perched on the edge of the Eisenhower Expressway, was the first in the city designed for disease outbreaks.

  • It has 40 negative-pressure rooms, which means the air from patient rooms doesn’t vent into the hallways when the doors are open.
  • Emergency room patients are isolated with walls and doors, not just curtains.
  • Portions of the emergency room can be isolated from the others, with individual air systems.
  • Patients arriving by ambulance can be isolated right in the ambulance bay.
  • In just two hours, an entire wing of the hospital can be turned into a giant isolation ward.
  • The entire first floor of the hospital was designed to handle a mass casualty event.

Most people only experience a hospital as a blur of bright lights and anxiety, but we were lucky enough to walk through the hospital in December 2011, just before it opened. Here’s what we saw.

Location: 1650 West Harrison Street, Illinois Medical District

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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