Reese's Pieces

Olympic Village or not, hospital is doomed

By Steve Rhodes
|  Monday, Dec 8, 2008  |  Updated 12:33 PM CDT
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Reese's Pieces

Lee Bey

Documenting the death of a hospital.

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With negotiations back on track to convert the campus of the Michael Reese Hospital to a development capable of housing the Olympic Village in 2016 should the city land the Summer Games it covets, the documentation of the institution's last days has also been underway.

Former Sun-Times architecture critic Lee Bey, now the executive director of the Chicago Central Area Committee, has posted his latest installment of sharp and powerful photos on his Urban Observer blog, which inspired architecture writer Lynn Becker to respond on ArchitectureChicagoPlus with a post of his own stating that "It was one of Chicago's greatest institutions. Now it's just in the way."

Both writers point readers to the fine work on the hospital done at Forgotten Chicago.

"In true Chicago fashion, a plan has been announced and set in stone before anyone has had a chance to comment on it," says the site.

"Little protest to the project has been heard as of yet. For one thing, few people even know where Michael Reese is, let alone see it regularly. It isn't located on a major thoroughfare, and it has been isolated in a sea of urban renewal projects, including it's own, since the 1950s. However, once one does see the Reese campus, it is hard to deny that something worthwhile will be lost if the plans go through.

"Hospital architecture can often be uninspired and utilitarian, but most of the buildings at Michael Reese couldn't be further from this assessment."

And Bey calls these photos by Carey Primeau "achingly beautiful."

The hospital announced in spring that it would be closing its doors, "citing ownership changes, increasing competition, and the rising number of uninsured patients who can’t pay their bills," Chicagoist reported.

All the more fitting, then, that Chicagoist calls the photos in this Flickr pool "haunting, occasionally creepy ('vintage gynecology'), and all imbued with an intense sense of loss."

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