This is one of those feel good stories, that we wish to be applied to so many heritage significant buildings. Completed in 1914, the Cook County Hospital building is a Chicago Landmark and once stood as the symbolic heart of the Illinois Medical District healthcare community. Vacant since 2002, the building had fallen into a severe state of disrepair and was threatened with demolition.
Instead, SOM led a design-build collaboration for general contractor Walsh Construction, with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates and interior designers KOO, to carefully preserve, restore, and adapt the former hospital building to meet the changing needs of the neighbourhood.
With a new hotel, food hall, medical offices, and community spaces, the revitalised historic hospital building is the first phase of a proposed $1 billion redevelopment plan for the area.
A sliver-thin canopy of steel and glass marks the entrance to the building, replacing a former bulky addition that diminished the integrity of the historic facade. Inside, SOM restored the lobby to its original height of 25 feet. Original red terrazzo flooring and ornate Beaux-Arts molding immediately evoke the building’s original grandeur, while carefully selected contemporary artwork, lighting, and finishes signal a new chapter in the building’s history.
A food hall just to the left of the lobby provides a bright and engaging space in which to relax and recharge; its 12 local vendors are primarily women- or minority-owned businesses. Further amenity spaces include an expansive bar and lounge spaces with views through restored wood-framed windows, creating a lively atmosphere and a sense of connectedness to the surrounding neighbourhood. The team didn’t just want to preserve the old Cook County Hospital, they wanted to bring it back to its former glory, from the facade to the original Beaux-Arts masonry detailing and terra cotta ornamentation.
SOM and KOO took advantage of the building’s relatively thin footprint to configure 210 hotel rooms filled with natural light. With unique layouts and contemporary art and decor, the rooms provide a rich variety of spaces and views. Some of the more unusual spaces within the former hospital, including lofty operating rooms with bands of windows on the eighth floor, were transformed into distinctive guest rooms.