Monday, December 19, 2005

First Peek at the World: Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital

My nephew, Luca Michael, arrived on the planet this week. He had been journeying here for a while. I mean for much longer than nine months.

I know this because my sister-in-law said years ago, after her second daughter was born, that she had a strong feeling someone else should be sitting around her kitchen table. She just couldn't shake it. And, now -- abracadabra -- he's here just in time to wrap and put under the tree.

The photo above is a view from Julianna's recovery room at the Prentice Women's Hospital at Northwestern Memorial. It was designed in the 50s by Bertrand Goldberg, the same guy behind the Marina City Towers and the River City complex. A new women's hospital is in progressand due to open in 2007.

Both of my children were born here, too. The rooms are remarkably tranquil and the odd-shaped window (just one per room) seemed rightly suited to the mind-boggling logistics of childbirth and the intense morphing our lives had just gone through. I liked how my children's first view of the world was like looking out of a fishbowl. When we held them up to the outside world, the ovals seemed to curb the expanse of it, to make it palpable but unintimidating to such tiny souls. No way these windows would keep day-olds from turning back on their tender journeys.

I asked one of my sister-in-law's nurses this week about what would happen to the building when the new hospital opened. They're not tearing it down she said. They're using it to expand the psych ward.

Photo of Prentice Women's Hospital courtesy of ArchiTech Gallery.


Michael Allen said...

As with many other modern buildings of a sculptural nature, I had always wondered how that building would be experienced from the inside. Many modern hospitals offer intriguing compositions but bland or overwhelming interior spaces. The spaces at this hospital seem lovely and warm -- then again, Goldberg was a cut above most modernists. His embrace of the circle as a primary architectural form gave his buildings a warmly androgynous nature as opposed to the cold masculine nature of the conventional glass and concrete boxes.

Jennifer said...

YOu're right. Being in this builidng makes me want to look out a Marina City Towers condo or a River City one.

Also, I meant to add that the rooms are almost all pie-shaped with the door at the narrow end and the window at the wider one. I think that contributes to their calming effect because it puts visitors (most frequently, doctors, nurses, and other personnel) in a little less control when they enter and the patients (or new mothers) on stronger footing. Perhaps unintended, but it works.

John said...

Marina City units are similar to the Prentice, in that they taper from the exterior to the interior. Unfortunately, each "pie" is pretty narrow, so if you have a 1BR apartment the spaces are a bit cramped near the core, esp. the kitchen. I haven't been in a River City unit but the common atrium space is just fantastic, if a bit Portmanesque. Too bad this city doesn't have somebody like Goldberg around today.

Michael Allen said...

The interior spaces at Prentice sound lovely -- I must get inside when I am in Chicago again!