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Northwestern wins eight building design awards from local non-profit

Design Evanston recognizes 28 buildings in the city

EVANSTON - Seven Northwestern University facilities from a variety of departments, campus locations and purposes have won a total of eight design awards from local non-profit Design Evanston.

Northwestern’s awards fell into four different categories, including a sweep of the Landscape Design category. The University also won awards in the New Construction, Rehabilitation/Renovation/Restoration and Interior Design categories.

Opened in 2015, the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts earned awards for New Construction and Landscape Design. Other facilities earning awards include Dearborn Observatory, 720 University Place, The Garage, the Kellogg Global Hub, the West parking lot at Ryan Field and Shakespeare Garden.

Northwestern won two awards during Design Evanston’s last round of awards in 2015.

Following is a breakdown of the awards, organized by category. There were 10 categories in total.  

New Construction 

Ryan Center for the Musical Arts 

The Ryan Center forms a quadrangle to connect the Bienen School of Music with other fine and performing arts facilities. Situated on Lake Michigan’s shore, the Ryan Center is certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold building, the second-highest sustainable building certification offered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Ryan Center’s crown jewel is its 400-seat recital hall. Featuring a 40-foot-high double-skin glass wall, the space sets performers against a backdrop of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.


Dearborn Observatory 

This historic gem has undergone significant renovations since first opening in 1898. In 2015 and 2016, the observatory was given a complete exterior restoration, including repairs to the limestone and windows, glass restoration, replacement of slate and copper sections of the roof, and structural repair/restoration of the wrought iron observatory walkway.

Overseen by the department of physics and astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Dearborn Observatory is open for public viewing Fridays from 8 to 10 p.m.

720 University Place 

Like Dearborn Observatory, this building opened in the 1890s and required significant work on its exterior. The 12,000-square-foot exterior wall surface includes two brick colors and sizes, cut limestone sills, painted wood windows and trim, a rough-cut structural stone masonry base, clay tile roof and copper downspouts.

Contractors used a combination of historic masonry techniques, reclaimed materials and more modern materials to restore the building -- originally a music performance hall -- to its original splendor.

Interior Design 

The Garage 

Northwestern opened The Garage in 2015, ushering in a new era of student innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. Housed within the North Campus Parking Garage, the aptly-named space fosters collaboration among students, faculty and staff from all disciplines and schools in developing bold business ideas -- and potentially startups. High-quality mentorships, programming and resources at The Garage help Northwestern students form a network, iterate on concepts and build on their intrinsic interests. 

Kellogg Global Hub

The Kellogg School of Management’s new state-of-the-art facility was christened in March. Its tiered, cantilevered and fluid form gives the sense of structure in motion along the shore of Lake Michigan. The sculpted, undulating form weaves around the building, revealing multi-level terraces and nestled spaces that foster informal social activity and business education collaboration.

Landscape Design

West Ryan Field parking lot

Northwestern vastly improved the gameday experience for Wildcats football fans by making structural and aesthetic upgrades in one of Ryan Field’s main parking lots. The University reached out to the community to identify key issues, such as pedestrian and vehicular flow, lighting and landscaping.

Today, fans and visitors enjoy a number improvements that fit with Evanston’s Central Street neighborhood. Major features include a reorganization of parking that prioritizes pedestrian access to the stadium, alternative storm water storage solutions such as rain gardens and native plantings, LED lighting and more.

Ryan Center for the Musical Arts (Arts Green)

Accenting the Ryan Center’s distinctive design, the Arts Green serves as a modern campus quad for the South campus. The space, which is pursuing LEED certification, brings together all of Northwestern’s music-oriented buildings -- the Ryan Center, Regenstein Hall of Music and Pick-Staiger Concert Hall -- into a cluster-like community.

The Arts Green also connects Northwestern’s music community to greater Evanston. In particular, a public lakefront pedestrian and bicycle path has been redeveloped and extended, allowing access to the building and surrounding area, as well as improved access to the lakefront and views of the Chicago skyline and sculptures from the Block Museum of Art.

Shakespeare Garden

As a gift to the Garden Club of Evanston for its centennial, Northwestern funded an enhancement project that was completed in spring 2016. The project included existing architectural stone and garden restoration, new stone benches with sundial plinth and plaque, new custom designed wood obelisks, a new irrigation system, lighting for the garden and pathway restoration. The Garden Club conceived the concept of putting a “Shakespeare Garden” on Northwestern’s campus in 1916. In 1988, the garden was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

About Design Evanston 

Design Evanston is a membership-drive 501(c)(3) not-for-profit advocacy organization promoting good design in Evanston, Illinois. It began giving out design awards for local architecture projects in 2001, and also gave out awards in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2010 and 2015. More information is available at