Emanuel Doubles Down On Prentice Non-Committal; Jeanne Gang Draws A Possible Solution

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 17, 2012 9:30PM

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Photo credit: Randy Plemel, Jr.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel still hasn't offered an opinion either way in regard to the debate over the future of Historic Prentice Women's Hospital. According to the Tribune, Emanuel said he still wants to meet with people on both sides of the debate before he takes a side. even though Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), whose ward includes the hospital, said Monday he was inclined to support Northwestern University's proposal to tear down the Bertrand Goldberg-designed building in favor of a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility.

Emanuel said he's got 99 problems, and Prentice ain't one.

"Right after I've gotten done with the budget and a couple other things, I'm going to be having a follow-up meeting with the two respective other groups in this process, to see if we can't find what I think are the right priorities for the city of Chicago going forward," Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference.

Emanuel reiterated that a solution to the Prentice "riddle" should involve discussion between Nothwestern, preservationists and neighborhood businesses. But that's already a weighted conversation: Northwestern's research facility has the support of business groups like Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association and numerous labor unions, architects, business leaders and patient advocacy groups.

One architect in favor of preservation is MacArthur Fellowship winner Jeanne Gang, who quickly had her architecture studio draft possible renderings for a compromise to the debate—a 31-story research facility atop Historic Prentice's cantilevered design. The New York Times' Michael Kimmelman reached out to Gang to come up with a creative way to save Prentice while still allowing Northwestern to have its 600,000 square-feet facility.

Peep, peeps.

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Here is how Jeanne Gang would solve the Historic Prentice Hospital argument, build the biomedical research facility Northwestern wants on top of Prentice's classic cantilever design. (Image credit: Studio Gang; illustration by Jay Hoffman.)

(See all of Studio Gang's renderings for Historic Prentice here.)

Kimmelman then proposed the idea to Christina Morris of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Northwestern spokesman Alan Cubbage. Morris, without seeing Gang's designs, said it was an idea they could get behind, and the Save Prentice Coalition released a statement praising Gang's creativity.

Ms. Gang understands that the way to encourage future innovation is not to destroy it but to honor it.

Cubbage, meanwhile, wouldn't say it whether the university would entertain Gang's concept but added that the party line from preservationists "has been that it must be preserved as is." Cubbage failed to mention that Northwestern has consistently proposed demolition.