Saving Prentice

Type: Speculative
Program: Exhibition Board
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Status: Completed 2012
Brief: To propose an image for the ‘Reconsidering an Icon’ Exhibition.

“Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men.” – Richard Nickel

The government-endorsed push to demolish Prentice is a significant current event.  Sadly, however, it represents just one in a much longer sequence of short-sighted actions.  These tragedies have been repeated by a city which has all-too-often prioritized the rapid development of the ‘new’ over the thoughtful integration of the ‘old.’  Too many times in Chicago’s short history, significant buildings have been hastily razed, leaving only quiet echoes of the great lessons they once offered.  Many have fallen; few have been saved, but the sad and tenuous appreciation for Chicago’s architectural history remains unchanged.

Our image does not aspire to answer the difficult question of how to breathe new life into this magnificent structure.  It is instead a thoughtful gesture, hinged on history, meant to fuel the fight to keep it alive.  How can we begin to assign new purpose to a building without first securing the commitment of its primary stakeholders?  Before we speculate - before we create - it is imperative that a dedication to preserve our city’s history is elicited from these parties.  They must realize the value of the treasure they hold in their hands and it is our job, as advocates for preservation, to harness all resources at our disposal to convince them.  It is only then, with all parties devoted to a singular purpose, that the creative forces of the design community may be channeled into a newly-imagined future for Prentice.