Bertrand Goldberg’s 1962 design for the Elgin State Hospital launched his 30-year focus on architecture for health care. Constructed across the country—from Mobile, Alabama, to Tacoma, Washington—the architect’s hospitals and university medical centers reflect his lifelong interest in urban planning, and advanced a new form of spatial research focused on the individual patient experience. Goldberg also capitalized on the creative possibilities of orchestrating the modern hospital’s “ganglia” of services, equipment, and personnel—the very organizational complexity that was often seen as a barrier to good design. Planned from the inside out, his hospital spaces were inspired by interpersonal relationships and the scale of the human body, while the futuristic quality of the buildings’ undulating facades celebrated the growing technological capacities of the postwar era.
Goldberg’s hospitals reflect his strident efforts to redefine the spaces and practice of health care in the United States. His early experimentation for the Affiliated Hospitals in Boston and Stanford University Medical Center in the mid-1960s led to a new form of spatial organization that combined rectilinear base buildings for common services and supplies, and “geocentric” plans for bed towers and other areas where patients received direct care. Goldberg arrived at his ideal hospital model in 1971 with Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, where a soaring concrete structure organized patient rooms into floors of radial clusters or “villages” to promote feelings of comfort and efficient nursing care. In his late career, these goals informed a number of specialized medical projects in Chicago, Turkey, and Yemen. Perhaps more than any other body of work, Goldberg’s hospitals demonstrate his mastery of scale, fusing the microcosm of human relationships with dramatic images of technological complexity.
Bertrand Goldberg. Prentice Women’s Hospital, Chicago, IL, c. 1975. Hedrich-Blessing, courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.