Elgin Laundry Building Reuse Study

Study Explores Recreational Reuse Opportunities of Historic Elgin Laundry Building

October 11, 2016

ELGIN, ILLINOIS – Landmarks Illinois, in partnership with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and the City of Elgin, has released a study that explores reuse opportunities for the Elgin Laundry Building, a unique accordion-shaped facility designed by Bertrand Goldberg and built on the former Elgin Mental Health Hospital grounds. The study identifies how the currently unused Elgin Laundry Building, listed on Landmarks Illinois’ 2008-09 Chicagoland Watchlist, could be reused as a multipurpose recreational facility for the people of Elgin while also preserving the historic building that serves as a striking example of Goldberg’s work, a leading Chicago Modernism architect best known for his design of Chicago’s iconic Marina City.

The Laundry Building, completed in 1967, is unique for many reasons. Like other Goldberg buildings, it serves as a functional, living element of architectural history. The building is also ideal for many sport and fitness activities, with its open concept and column-free interior space. The long-span, hangar-like structure is 240-feet long, by 110-feet wide, and features reasonable ceiling height for recreation reuse. The study explores these reuse opportunities and also includes a condition assessment of the building completed by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. To read the full study, click here.

Reuse Plans

The Laundry Building is structurally sound but cosmetically rough. Proposed reuse scenarios designed by SOM include modernizing the space without compromising Goldberg’s design. Reuse has the possibility to breathe new life into the aging building while celebrating the existing design. Programmed for maximum flexibility, the space can meet Elgin’s changing needs while serving as a hub for the community, integrating the former northern end of the hospital campus into the fabric of the city.

SOM reimagined the Laundry Building as an extension of Elgin’s existing central recreation complex, proposing a host of configurations that could accommodate a variety of options from soccer to basketball, among others. Modern, soaring spaces for human activity reinvigorate the interior, with the potential for specialized areas for strength training, martial arts, wrestling and dance.

Proposed reuse scenarios also include:

  • Seating for nearly 350 guests in fixed bleachers, with additional space beyond the building’s retractable curtain walls.
  • Planned amenity spaces include locker rooms, administrative offices and a public reception area.
  • Refurbished glass custom walls at each end of the facility that invite visitors inside and allow for exterior observation of indoor activities.


Environmental Upgrades

The design team also incorporated design standards in the reuse study, including the possibility of the building generating its own power with photovoltaic panels, harvesting rainwater, providing enhanced natural daylighting, natural ventilation during the spring and fall, and low-flow plumbing to minimize its environmental footprint. Potentially, these changes could allow the former Laundry Building to be a net-zero building.

With the renovation of the Laundry Building, a vital public space will be offered to the Elgin community, while preserving a significant example of Elgin architectural legacy. Working closely with local residents, stakeholders and end-users, the design – if pursued – will provide a welcoming, high-caliber and sustainable athletic and community center for the City of Elgin.

View the full study here, or visit the “Press Room” page on Landmarks Illinois’ website www.Landmarks.org.

About Landmarks Illinois

Landmarks Illinois is a membership-based nonprofit organization serving the people of Illinois. We inspire and empower stakeholders to save places that matter to them by providing free guidance, practical and financial resources and access to strategic partnerships.

About SOM

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is a leading architecture, interior design, engineering and urban planning firm, with an 80-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. The firm maintains offices in Chicago and around the globe.

Media Contacts:

Kaitlyn McAvoy
Communications Manager, Landmarks Illinois
(312) 922-1742

Carl Krause
Communications Manager, SOM
(312) 360-4198

Randy Reopelle
Parks & Recreation Director, City of Elgin
(847) 931-6127


Additional images of Elgin Laundry Building for press:


Elgin Laundry Building original architectural rendering 1962. Credit: Collections of the Art Institute of Chicago 



Elgin Laundry Building rendering. Credit: SOM



Elgin Laundry Building rendering. Credit: SOM



Exterior of the Elgin Laundry Building. Credit: Landmarks Illinois



Exterior of the Elgin Laundry Building. Credit: Landmarks Illinois

Read the study

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