Learning from Prentice
Text by Chris Enck
Images courtesy of the Save Prentice Coalition
As the last of Bertrand Goldberg’s former Prentice Hospital is reduced to rubble, a long and often politically charged chapter in Chicago preservation history draws to a close. While the iconic concrete structure with its oval windows and cantilevered clover-leaf wings perched above a Miesian base will be gone, the legacy of the “Save Prentice” campaign can serve as a model for future advocacy efforts.
Prentice Hospital was designed by Bertrand Goldberg Associates and completed in 1975 as an early facility focusing on women’s health. Like many of Goldberg’s buildings, architecturally it broke with Chicago’s Miesian tradition of steel and glass rectilinear forms. Instead, four elegant concrete wings form a clover leaf in plan and cantilever over a low Miesian base. In addition to the striking lines of the building, Goldberg is credited with being one of the first to use computer software to design the structural aspects of the building. The software had previously been utilized in the design of dams and by the aviation industry and allowed Goldberg to maximize the potential of the structural materials. Architect and son of Bertrand Goldberg, Geoffrey Goldberg said of the structure that “you will not find the structural solution to Prentice, which is an exterior shell cantilevered off a core, anywhere else in the world and Prentice was the only one in which it was achieved.”