Northwestern University Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center

Evanston, Illinois
Athletic Complex a Game-changer for Students on Lakefront Campus

In response to our client’s goal to recruit and inspire world-class student athletes, we designed one of the most versatile practice, competition, and recreation venues in the nation.

The Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center is a transformational athletic expansion on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. To optimize the student-athlete experience, we designed a sleek, sophisticated destination–one that takes full advantage of the vista over Lake Michigan and the panorama of the Chicago skyline. Abundant ceiling-to-floor windows give way to jaw-dropping views of the natural and urban landscape, ushering in natural light at nearly every turn. And, despite being located on a constrained site, the monumental facility seamlessly integrates with the surrounding campus, never calling too much attention to itself.

Today, student-athletes at Northwestern University get to train and perform at one the world’s finest athletic institutions—but also, in an iconic work of modern architecture.

What Makes It Cool
A sweeping horizontal glass façade and efficient planning provide unobstructed Lake Michigan views.
The all-glass north facing façade provides unobstructed views of the lake and the beach and fills Ryan Fieldhouse with natural light.
Integrated Planning

We engaged many stakeholders, including all of the university’s sports teams, in an inclusive planning process. This ensured that the needs of various user groups—student-athletes, visitors, donors, and more—were addressed in the facility’s design.

The fieldhouse dome is supported by a dramatic series of long-span steel arches that relate to the 10-yard grid of the football field.
Branding is a key element throughout, telling the storied history of Northwestern athletics.

Brand elements evoke engagement based on the function of space – a sense of intensity and vigor in training spaces, a sense of maturity and accountability in academic support areas. Prominently featured in the public entry space, a 3-story LED screen captures the spirit of sport, and dynamically represents the University’s 19 athletics programs.”

Dynamic brand pattern paired with the iconic ‘N’ logo, energizes the spaces and captures a sense of speed and motion.
Due to site constraints, the fieldhouse is raised to the second level to allow a popular lakefront pedestrian path to pass underneath its cantilevered northeast corner.

Associate Architect/Sports Consultant:

Project Team

Michael Palmer
Mark Walsh
Ralph Johnson
Brian Weatherford
Chris Hale
David Dymecki
Bryan Schabel