Singing the demolition blues in Chicago
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.