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Meghan Anne Bunchman/MEDILL 

Chicago architects and designers mingle in a pre-event cocktail hour.

Designs for saving Prentice go on display as judge temporarily blocks demolition

by Meghan Anne Bunchman
Nov 15, 2012


Meghan Anne Bunchman/MEDILL

Onlookers get the first look at Reconsidering An Icon exhibit, which runs through Feb. 8.


Meghan Anne Bunchman/MEDILL

Event participants view the Chicago Architecture Foundation's 'Model City.'

The battle over the future of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital continued Thursday, with a judge temporarily blocking demolition of the landmark on the same day that the Chicago Architecture Foundation opened an exhibit of designs for adapting Prentice instead of tearing it down.

Cook County Circuit Judge Neil Cohen reinstated temporary landmark status to Prentice until the merits could be heard on a lawsuit filed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation named architects Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta as winners in its Future Prentice: 2012 Chicago Prize Competition. Their entry was among 71 contest submissions, along with plans submitted by Studio Gang Architects and 10 young Chicago design firms.

The fate of the Bertrand Goldberg-designed modernist building has been fiercely contested for nearly two years. Preservationists have fought to save the vacant building, located on Northwestern University's Streeterville medical school campus. The university wants to knock it down to build a medical research facility.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had remained on the sidelines for months, eventually sided with the university, citing the jobs and economic benefits to the city of redeveloping the site. In an unusual maneuver, on Nov. 1 the Commission on Chicago Landmarks first granted the building landmark status, then swiftly reversed itself, clearing the way for Northwestern to proceed with its plans.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation design competition is intended to show “how creative design can be used to redesign [and preserve] historic modern buildings,” said Justin Lyons, director of communications.

Marsollier and Villacorta, the winning architects, said in their project statement, "Maintaining the existing structure celebrates the possibilities of free space."

Martin Felsen, principal of UrbanLab and one of the judges for Thursday’s competition, said that the winning submission was innovative and could represent the heart of Northwestern's Streeterville campus.

Marsollier and Villacorta will share the $3,000 contest prize money.

Northwestern University has said that the Prentice building is neither economic nor logistically efficient to accommodate its new research facility. The university announced its own design competition in September to select an architect for the new facility. The university said the process will begin in 2013 and could take 10 to 12 months.

The exhibit showcasing the winning entry by Marsollier and Villacorta, along with the other submissions, is free and runs through Feb. 8 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan Ave.