Michael Reese Hospital will close after a century of providing healthcare on Chicagos South Side. That much is certain, but defenders of Chicagos architectural heritage are fighting to save a collection of post-World War II buildings on its campus they say are the only ones in the city showing the hand of German architect Walter Gropius, founder of the influential Bauhaus school. Theyre about to be razed as part of Mayor Richard Daleys plans to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Outliers: Olympic battle brewing over hospital demolition
The city has an $86 million contract to buy the 40-acre site and the
29 buildings on it at the end of June. All but the original 1905 hospital building would be knocked down to provide a bare footprint for high-density housing for athletes.
Gropius was listed as a consulting architect, with local firms as the architects of record, on the hospitals postwar expansion. The master plan called for a collection of separate, less imposing structures scattered across beautifully landscaped grounds. This was much more than a hospital; it was intended to be a demonstration of how modernist architecture could come to the city and solve its problems, says Grahm Balkany, an Illinois Institute of Technology student whose research indicates the Gropius influence is more significant than previously recognized.
Balkany has some influential supporters in a campaign to celebrate Gropius role and save the structures at savemrh.com, including Preservation Chicago, which had already had put the Reese campus on its list of Chicagos most endangered treasures. A city spokeswoman confirmed theres no room in the Olympics plans to save the buildings, and Preservation Chicago Executive Director Jonathan Fine says city officials dont want to know what theyre losing. They dont seem to be the least bit interested in learning anything about this for fear theyd be accused of destroying the only work of Gropius in the state of Illinois, and it seems to be getting in the way of their real estate redevelopment scheme, Fine says.
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