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Old Cook County Hospital | Submitted by the Walsh Group


Region: ENR Midwest


OWNER: Murphy Real Estate Services


LEAD DESIGN FIRM: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates


The abandoned former Cook County Hospital building was a wreck. “The term ‘fully depreciated’ was an understatement,” says Kenneth Johnston, senior project manager with Walsh Construction. “It was literally falling apart. The building had no power, no water.” The roof leaked for at least ten years, wreaking havoc on the structure. “Many components were structurally unsound and caving in, or so porous that nature was starting to take over again, with shrubs and saplings growing throughout,” says Adam Semel, managing partner with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the lead designer. 

The 1914 Beaux Arts structure, vacant since 2002, was converted into two hotels—a Hyatt Place and Hyatt House—comprising more than 200 rooms plus 75,000 sq ft of office space and a food hall. Crews removed all interior partitions, leaving a clear floor plate nearly 550 ft long and 70 ft wide. Sections of the existing floor structure had to be removed and replaced, creating safety concerns. “Removing the 23-in-thick floor slabs from below would expose falling material,” said Johnston. At the same time, removing them from above would create an expanding fall risk, and might position workers on structural slabs that require demolition. The team turned to a Husqvarna robot to remove safety risks.

Walsh utilized HoloBuilder, a 360˚ photo service, to track early conditions, and then provided scans before demolition, during demolition, post demolition, and during rough-ins to SOM and MB Real Estate. The contractor used drones to identify damaged exterior elements.

The facade was restored to an exacting standard in keeping with the building’s position on the National Registry of Historic Places. On the building’s exterior, Walsh replaced and repaired the masonry where thousands of pieces of original terra cotta were removed, says Johnson. The firm then sent the pieces to Gladding, McBean, a California ceramics company, which created 4,116 new handmade pieces for the project, while another 1,621 pieces were repaired in place.