Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center

The Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center is a transformational addition to Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. Taking advantage of a prominent location that offers unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, the new complex integrates previous athletic and recreational facilities, student residence halls and parking spaces while creating a sustainable environment that is sensitive to the site’s historic and natural setting.


  • United States


  • Northwestern University

Project Status

  • Completed, 2018


Maximizing the Site

The new facility provides state-of-the-art training spaces, indoor and outdoor practice and competition fields, an expanded natatorium and administrative offices.

To fit the program of the 420,000-square-foot venue on the site, the playing field was elevated to the building’s second floor. To enable this, WSP structural engineers devised seven-foot cantilevered supports for the north side of the field.

The design team also needed maintain a continuous lakefront path around the structure. Rather than creating a new landscape, the existing path was extended and integrated, allowing students, faculty, staff and the Evanston community access to the university grounds.

Foot-Long Cantilever Supporting the Field
Foot Column-Free Span
Foot Glass Wall

Emphasizing Daylight and Views

At the start of the project, Northwestern sought to create a building that would take advantage of the stunning location, offering ample daylight and access to the incredible views of Lake Michigan. Perkins + Will and WSP collaborated to design the building around a structural concept that allowed plentiful daylight (while taking into consideration harsh glare and heat gain). The resulting structural scheme featured a cantilevered support beam to support the north side of the arch. A 42-foot glass wall is laterally braced back to the arches, with kinked arm braces supporting the edge of the roof.

Structural connections in the roof are fully exposed, a design element that required extensive coordination with the architect, detailer and erector to achieve the cleanest connection while avoiding as much field welding as possible.