Designed in 1965 by Bertrand Goldberg, the Laundry Building in Elgin, Illinois, is a rare piece of architectural history. Formerly a part of the Elgin Mental Hospital Campus, the facility was transferred from the State of Illinois by the City of Elgin, which recognized an opportunity to breathe new life into the unoccupied building. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) partnered with Elgin and Landmarks Illinois, a non-profit committed to preserving the architectural heritage of Illinois, to develop a vision for a new recreation facility on the former medical campus.
A rectangular design defined by large concrete structural members, the hangar-like building is a striking example of Goldberg’s work. The study proposed reuse scenarios that celebrate the open character of the original design while preserving Goldberg’s architectural legacy in Elgin. The new building would meet the city's changing functional needs while serving as a hub for the community, integrating the edge of the former hospital campus into the adjacent municipal sports complex.
The reuse study proposes a variety of soaring, daylit spaces for an array of recreational functions, including soccer and basketball, alongside specialized areas for strength training, martial arts, and dance. The proposal includes a variety of configurations, including seating options for 350 spectators in fixed bleachers with additional space beyond the building’s retractable curtain walls. New amenity spaces include locker rooms, administrative offices, and a reception area.
The proposed plan meets goals outlined in Living Building Challenge 3.0; natural daylighting and ventilation during spring and fall, photovoltaic panels, rainwater harvesting, and low-flow plumbing aim to minimize the building’s environmental footprint.
Transforming a prominent example of Goldberg’s architecture into a place for wellness, the proposed renewal of the Laundry Building serves as a touchstone for the adaptive reuse of mid-twentieth-century institutional architecture.