Mid-Century Modern

At the birth of the historic preservation movement in the 1960s, when themichael-reese-kaplan-pavilion battles to save New York’s Penn Station and Chicago’s Garrick Theater occurred, it is interesting to note that neither building was older than about 70 years.

For far too long, the preservation movement has focused almost exclusively on buildings built before World War II. In fact, even the most comprehensive preservation document to date, the Chicago Historic Recourses Survey (CHRS) published in 1996, does not include a single building built after 1940.

prentice-photoHowever, the recent losses of Bertrand Goldberg’s concrete masterwork Prentice Women’s Hospital and all but one of the Walter Gropius buildings on the former Michael Reese Hospital campus signaled to Preservation Chicago that better advocacy is necessary to communicate the architectural and historic importance of these often under-appreciated and frequently misunderstood modernist structures.

It has become clear that the works of Chicago’s masters of modernism, like Harry Weese, Bertrand Goldberg, Walter Netsch, the Keck Brothers, as well as many others, now face the same dubious fate as those of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright faced a generation before.

Preservation Chicago recognizes that every architectural era produces great buildings. It is also important to remember that when Chicago created its first landmarks commission back in 1960, they recognized the Inland Steel Building as a historic landmark. At the time, the building was only three years old. Preservation Chicago remains committed to the same kind of visionary thinking with regards to the preservation of our most recent historic architecture.