Cook County Hospital Adaptive Reuse

Vacant for nearly two decades, Chicago’s historic Cook County Hospital had fallen into disrepair. SOM led a design-build collaboration to carefully preserve, restore, and adapt the former hospital building to meet the changing needs of the neighborhood.

Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2020
  • Design Finish Year 2018
  • Size Site Area: 164,000 square feet Building Height: 164 feet Number of Stories: 8 Building Gross Area: 345,000 square feet
  • Energy Savings 50 kwh
  • Bed Count 210
  • Landmark Status City of Chicago Landmark, National Register of Historic Places
  • Year Originally Built 1914
  • Awards
    2021, Architizer A+Awards, Architizer 2021, IIDA Interior Design Competition, International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Decade of Design 2021, Excellence in Historic Preservation, AIA – Illinois Chapter 2021, Design Excellence Awards - Distinguished Building, AIA Chicago 2021, Distinguished Building Award, AIA Chicago
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C CS (Core & Shell) Silver, BD+C, Silver
  • Collaborators
    Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Inc. Dbhms - Chicago Engage Civil Incorporated Terry Guen Design Associates Incorporated KOO Architecture
Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2020
  • Design Finish Year 2018
  • Size Site Area: 164,000 square feet Building Height: 164 feet Number of Stories: 8 Building Gross Area: 345,000 square feet
  • Energy Savings 50 kwh
  • Bed Count 210
  • Landmark Status City of Chicago Landmark, National Register of Historic Places
  • Year Originally Built 1914
  • Awards
    2021, Architizer A+Awards, Architizer 2021, IIDA Interior Design Competition, International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Decade of Design 2021, Excellence in Historic Preservation, AIA – Illinois Chapter 2021, Design Excellence Awards - Distinguished Building, AIA Chicago 2021, Distinguished Building Award, AIA Chicago
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C CS (Core & Shell) Silver, BD+C, Silver
  • Collaborators
    Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Inc. Dbhms - Chicago Engage Civil Incorporated Terry Guen Design Associates Incorporated KOO Architecture

New life for a city landmark

Originally completed in 1914, the Cook County Hospital building is a designated Chicago Landmark and once stood as the symbolic heart of the Illinois Medical District healthcare community. Vacant for nearly two decades, 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 neighborhood with a new hotel, food hall, medical offices, and community spaces.

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Cook County Hospital © Dave Burk | SOM

Not only a monumental example of the neoclassical Beaux-Arts style, Cook County Hospital has an illustrious history. Many medical advances took place here, including the development of the first blood bank in the United States, and the hospital was long known as “Chicago’s Ellis Island” for its devoted treatment of poor communities and immigrants to the city.


Restoration and reinvention

When the rehabilitation project began in 2018, deferred maintenance, exposure to the elements, and vandalism had caused severe deterioration to the exterior and interior of the building. The restoration work focused first on repairing the neoclassical-style exterior, which involved the replacement of more than 4,500 pieces of terra cotta on the facade.

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. SOM and KOO took advantage of the building’s relatively thin footprint to configure 210 hotel rooms filled with natural light. Some of the more unusual spaces within the former hospital, including lofty operating rooms, were transformed into distinctive guest rooms.


Serving the community into the future

The first of several phases of redevelopment, the restored Cook County Hospital building is the keystone for a vibrant, mixed-use, transit-oriented district. It revitalizes the surrounding Illinois Medical District and provides much needed amenities to support the needs of medical workers, patients, and their families. SOM is involved in the ongoing planning and study of these future phases.

The redevelopment of Old Cook County Hospital will unlock tremendous economic potential in this community and provide much-needed amenities for residents and visitors to this area. It creates historic and lasting urban transformation in the heart of our county.