Chicago officials issued a demolition permit for Cuneo Memorial Hospital this week, dealing a blow to neighborhood activists and preservationists who have been fighting to save the curvy Uptown structure. Cuneo had made Preservation Chicago’s list of seven most endangered buildings in 2012.
The Chicago Tribune’s Ron Grossman reported Wednesday that some suspected Cuneo’s fate was predetermined:
John Holden, a member of the committee, said Cuneo’s fate has gotten less than a “robust hearing.” A developer who wanted to offer a plan to renovate and repurpose the building wasn’t encouraged, according to Holden.
“Cuneo deserves preservation, period,” Holden said. “It’s an important example of mid-20th-century modern architecture.”
The debate over Cuneo has drawn comparisons to another mid-century experimental hospital design: Old Prentice Women’s Hospital. That Bertrand Goldberg building is currently under demolition by Northwestern University, who plans to build a research high-rise on the site.
As for what awaits Chicago architect Edo J. Belli’s Cuneo, 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman apparently endorses a developer’s plan to build a high rise on the site, where Montrose and Clarendon Avenues meet.
Built in 1957, the first of the Cuneo buildings was one of the Illinois Institute of Technology graduate’s experiments with sculptural forms—a stroke against the grain of the Miesian rigidity that dominated IIT and much of Chicago architecture at the time. The building was closed in 1988, and used as a children’s shelter for a few years after that. St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lincoln Park displays similar elements. (Read an extended interview with Edo Belli by the Art Institute of Chicago here.) Another building across Clarendon was built later, connected to the 1957 structure by a skywalk.
Friends of Cuneo, a preservation group, floated a petition to save the hospital last fall, when demolition plans were first made public.