Northwestern University’s new Segal Visitors Center “is a winner”, declares Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune architecture critic. Kudos to Perkins+Will on a terrific design!
Located on the southeastern edge of Northwestern's campus, the building is a 400 space parking garage that has a two-story visitors center for prospective students and their families tucked into its southern end. The site is also home to a new boathouse and a new School of Music due to open next year, all built by Power Construction.
Mr. Kamin writes, “On the west and south facades, Johnson sheathed the parking levels in glass walls that are dark enough to obscure the cars inside but light enough to allow people within to gaze out at the campus and Lake Michigan. The walls, which resemble shadow boxes, seem to float above rounded concrete columns that express the building's structure. Yet the walls are outlined in looping bands of limestone that weave this contemporary structure into the fabric of Northwestern's older masonry buildings.
On the east and north facades, lightweight fabric fins screen the garage and strike up a visual conversation with the fabric sails of boats on an adjoining beach. The fins on the east facade have a pronounced curve that endows that side of the building with a striking, wave-shaped pattern that is an unexpected delight for passing pedestrians and cyclists.
Inside, the visitors center eschews the wood-paneled elitism of the Ivy League with a high-ceilinged, glass-walled lobby that instantly communicates Northwestern's proximity to Lake Michigan as well as to Chicago, whose skyline is visible in the distance. Sleek but not off-putting, the visitors center also has a 160-seat auditorium for information sessions, plus office and conference space.”