Text description provided by the architects. With its sweeping horizontal glass façade and unobstructed views over Lake Michigan, the Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center on Northwestern University’s Evanston, Illinois, campus combines a myriad of support services into a first-of-its-kind, multi-purpose center for student-athletes. Designed by global architecture firm Perkins+Will, the critically-acclaimed building represents a thoughtful convergence of design typologies: sports and recreation, performance health, branded environments, and higher education.
“These facilities are truly transformational for our Wildcats and our University,” said Northwestern University’s Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips. “Our state-of-the-art home is now in the heart of campus, alongside classrooms and laboratories and residence halls, allowing more interaction than ever before among our student-athletes and this incomparable Northwestern community.”
The light-filled, four-story Walter Athletics Center houses academic and professional development support services for more than 500 student-athletes, a nutrition center and dining facility, two sports performance centers, a cutting-edge sports medicine and athletic training hub, locker rooms for eight varsity teams, and office space for coaches and administrators. It is the second Northwestern athletics facility designed by Perkins+Will to open this year: in April, the university celebrated the grand opening of the Ryan Fieldhouse, a glass, aluminum and limestone building connected to the Walter Athletics Center, providing year-round practice and training space for football, lacrosse, soccer and other varsity athletes under a dome with soaring arches, and also serving as recreation and event space for campus programs.
The facility’s site enabled designers to capitalize on light and the unobstructed views of Lake Michigan. The full-sized field in Ryan Fieldhouse looks directly out through glass windows to the lake. A covered terrace outside the Walter Athletics Center dining hall wraps around the eastern and southern facades of the facility visually connecting the Center to the Chicago skyline. The glass-clad south and east sides of the Center overlook the outdoor football practice field and the soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey stadium and onward to the lake.
“Ryan Fieldhouse and the Walter Athletics Center provided an exciting opportunity to take advantage of the spectacular setting overlooking Lake Michigan and bring student-athletes back to the heart of campus to a complex that highlights the interconnectedness of physical fitness, performance, and well-being,” said Ralph Johnson, Perkins+Will’s global design director. Perkins+Will collaborated on the Northwestern project with associate architect HOK; civil engineer and landscape architect SmithGroup; structural engineer WSP USA; and mechanical engineer AEI Affiliated Engineers.