Judge's ruling will halt demolition of the old Prentice Women's Hospital

Preservationists win day in court, at least temporarily

November 15, 2012

By Cassidy Herrington

(Courtesy of Studio Gang)
Architect Jeanne Gang's rendering of a possible reuse for Prentice.
Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta's winning reuse proposal, "The Buildings Are Sleeping."
(Image courtesy of Chicago Architecture Foundation)
Another view of the winning entry.
(WBEZ/Cassidy Herrington)
The design competition winners with their proposal for a reuse of the Prentice Hospital.
(Flickr, TheeErin)
The old Prentice Women's Hospital by Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg.
(Image courtesy of Chicago Architecture Foundation)
Bridging Prentice entry by designers: James Wild with Lauren Haras, Katherine Lee, Andres Lemus, Tom Marquardt, Pedro Melis, Saman Moayer, Kerry Rutz, Katelyn Smith, and Ashley Wendela.
(Image courtesy of Chicago Architecture Foundation)
Another view of Bridging Prentice.

Updated 3:15 p.m.

Northwestern University can’t move ahead with demolishing the old Prentice Women’s Hospital just yet.

A Cook County Circuit judge issued an injunction Thursday afternoon that essentially prevents the city of Chicago from issuing a demolition permit.

Northwestern University wants to tear down the building and put up a new research facility. Preservationists argue it's an icon.

Preservationists filed a lawsuit against the city and the Chicago Landmarks Commission Thursday to prevent that. The suit seeks to reinstate Prentice's landmark designation, arguing the commission didn't follow its own landmarks ordinance.

WBEZ’s Melba Lara asked our reporter Cassidy Herrington what happened in court.

The lawsuit was filed the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Landmarks Illinois. The city Landmarks Commission had cleared the way for demolition in a Nov. 1 meeting.

But Thursday, Judge Neil Cohen issued an injunction until the decision-making process is further examined in court. Cohen said he was concerned that there was not a reasonable amount of time for the public to voice their opinions when the Landmarks Commission flipped positions during that meeting. Until the court decides whether the process was transparent, Cohen ordered a "legal shield" for the building.

Roderick Drew, a spokesperson from the city’s law department, said the city is disappointed by the judge’s decision.

Drew added the commission believes it “took the appropriate steps and followed the proper procedures.” The city plans to file a motion to dismiss the complaint for the next court date on Dec. 7.

Coincidentally, a few hours after the judge's ruling, the Chicago Architecture Foundation held an exhibition Thursday evening that unveiled 71 hypothetical reuse designs for the structure.

Architecture Foundation President Lynn Osmond said before the court ruling, she thought it was "game over" for Prentice. But by the time of the exhibition last night, she said the mood had turned hopeful.

“I think the architects and designers in the room thought that this was all not for naught," Osmond said. "There is an opportunity to perhaps test the theory of Prentice’s adaptive reuse.”

More than 200 architects and preservationists met at the foundation's showcase, where they waited for the unveiling of the design proposal winners. Entries included everything from bridges, to urban green spaces, to a high rise on top of the building.

Project team Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta won first place for their proposal called "The Buildings Are Sleeping." The design would cut Bertrand Goldberg’s symmetrical structure in half, build an adjoining new structure, and use the reflection in the windows to make Prentice’s four-leaf clover shape seem whole again.

“We are being respectful to Goldberg's building," Villacorta said. "We don’t want to detract from it, we don’t want to hide it, we’re more revealing it in a different way.”

The design submissions will be on display until February.