Chicago’s 342,000-sf Cook County Hospital building, completed in 1914, sat vacant since 2002 and had fallen into a severe state of disrepair. The building was under threat of being demolished before SOM led a design-build collaboration for general contractor Walsh Construction, with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, and interior designers KOO, to preserve, restore, and adapt the former hospital building to meet the changing needs of the neighborhood.

The reimagined building now includes a new hotel, a food hall, medical offices, and community spaces and is the first phase of a proposed $1 billion redevelopment plan for the area. The building also includes a museum space that will showcase the important role the hospital played for the city and in the field of medicine.


Cook County Hospital renovation facadeImage © Dave Burk | SOM.


Restoration work focused first on repairing the neoclassical-style exterior by replacing more than 4,500 pieces of terra cotta on the facade. A sliver-thin canopy of steel and glass marks the entrance of the building and replaces a former bulky addition that diminished the integrity of the facade.


Cook County Hospital building interiorImage © Dave Burk | SOM.


Interior restoration included restoring the lobby to its original height of 25 feet. Original red terrazzo flooring and ornate Beaux-Arts molding evokes the building’s original grandeur and contemporary artwork, lighting, and finishes signal a new chapter in the building’s history.


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“We didn’t just want to preserve the old Cook County Hospital–we wanted to bring it back to its former glory, from the facade to the original Beaux-Arts masonry detailing and terra cotta ornamentation,” said Brian Lee, SOM Consulting Partner, in a release. “The restored historic volume and finishes in the main lobby bring the original grand entrance back to life, establishing a new entrypoint for the community.” 


Cook County Hospital before renovation

Cook County Hospital after renovationBefore and after; top image © SOM; bottom image © Dave Burk | SOM.


The food hall is located to the left of the lobby. It provides a bright and engaging space with 12 local vendors that are primarily women- or minority-owned businesses. Additional amenity spaces include an expansive bar and lounge space with views through restored wood-framed windows.

The hotel takes advantage of the building’s relatively thin footprint and includes 210 hotel rooms filled with natural light. The rooms include unique layouts with contemporary art and decor. Some of the more unusual spaces within the former hospital, including lofty operating rooms and bands with windows on the eighth floor, were turned into distinctive guest rooms.


Cook County Hospital interior before renovation

Cook County Hospital interior after renovationBefore and after; top image © Walsh Group; bottom image © Dave Burk | SOM.