A modest proposal for NU's next architectural project | Bleader

A modest proposal for NU's next architectural project


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University Hall
  • University Hall
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks promised to take up the matter of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital this fall, but we probably shouldn't hold our breath. It isn't on the agenda for the commission's meeting Thursday, and the next regular meeting isn't until November 1.

It's enough to make you suspect that someone's hoping public interest (fanned by 80 architects lobbying for preservation) will fade away before the commission has to make a decision.

Meanwhile NU continues to wage a public relations campaign in support of its plan to destroy Prentice and replace it with a new medical research center. They've been struggling mightily—and spending abundantly on newspaper and broadcast ads—to convince Chicago residents that they have to choose between saving Prentice and saving lives.

But a lot of people, even some NU grads, don't get it. They think these are not mutually exclusive goals.

And preservationists have noticed a three-acre vacant lot right across the street where the research center could be built, while the Prentice building is adapted for some other use.

The preservationists also noticed that Northwestern owns 44 percent of its Streeterville neighborhood, including 23 buildings on 25 acres. That makes them think there ought to be other options.

Now NU has announced an architectural competition for the research center, which they say will be "a world class, iconic building."

NU says it'll employ the same selection process used to find the architect for the new Bienen School of Music, now under construction on the Evanston campus. Click here to check out what that competition produced.

This part of their argument is much easier to grasp: If you tear down an architecturally significant building—say a seriously dated Gothic anachronism like University Hall—you don't replace it with just any old steel and glass box. You give the public another significant structure, and that makes it all OK.

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