Singing the de­mo­li­tion blues in Chicago

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

While the hos­pi­tal con­struc­tion boom is a well-doc­u­mented phe­nom­e­non, less at­ten­tion has been paid to a corol­lary trend: an uptick in hos­pi­tal de­mo­li­tions.

Chicago, for its part, is mov­ing to­ward its third con­tro­ver­sial hos­pi­tal de­mo­li­tion pro­ject in five years with the pend­ing de­struc­tion of the Frank Cuneo Hos­pi­tal for Women and Chil­dren. Cuneo Hos­pi­tal, on the city’s North Side, was com­pleted in 1957 and boasted un­usual ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures, in­clud­ing round op­er­at­ing suites, a roofline that mim­ics an artist’s palette and scads of tiny, brightly col­ored ce­ramic tiles through­out the build­ing’s ex­te­rior and in­te­rior, the Chicago Reader re­ports.

Closed and re­pur­posed as a chil­dren’s shel­ter in 1988, the hos­pi­tal build­ing is now slated for raz­ing to make way for 800 lux­ury apart­ments and a re­tail com­plex, pend­ing city ap­proval of zon­ing changes. A group called Preser­va­tion Chicago is urg­ing city of­fi­cials to have de­vel­op­ers save and re­use the hos­pi­tal be­cause of the unique “lyri­cism” of the de­sign by its ob­scure-but-ad­mired ar­chi­tect, Edo Belli, ac­cord­ing to the Reader story. Good luck with that, is all Out­liers can say. We ear­lier told the tale of the fight to save Pren­tice Women’s Hos­pi­tal (Sept. 3, 2012), which fea­tured round win­dows and a mas­sive, poured-con­crete sham­rock shape with an un­usual open floor plan. The Com­mis­sion on Chicago Land­marks even gave the Ber­trand Gold­berg-de­signed down­town hos­pi­tal pre­lim­i­nary sta­tus as a land­mark. But af­ter Mayor Rahm Emanuel came out in fa­vor of raz­ing it to make way for North­west­ern Univer­sity’s new med­i­cal re­search fa­cil­ity, Pren­tice’s fate was sealed.

In 2009, de­mo­li­tion be­gan on the Michael Reese Hos­pi­tal and Med­i­cal Cen­ter on the city’s near South Side. The 37-acre cam­pus was largely planned and de­signed by famed Bauhaus ar­chi­tect Wal­ter Gropius, but preser­va­tion­ists clashed with de­vel­op­ers and city of­fi­cials af­ter the an­nounce­ment that hous­ing for ath­letes would be built on the site if Chicago landed the 2016 Olympics (April 27, 2009). The city lost the Games to Brazil, but the build­ings were lev­eled any­way and the site re­mains va­cant.

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