When the Northwestern University Segal Visitor’s Center opened to the public, President Morton Schapiro praised the building as having “the most beautiful view in the world.” Standing as a stunning lakefront gateway to the Evanston campus, the center includes an auditorium with approximately 160 seats, meeting rooms, offices for admissions staff, and a two story reception area. Just over a year old, the state-of-the art building at 1841 Sheridan Road is also the area’s best kept parking secret.
The building, just steps from the museum, includes a stunning window-lined parking garage that accommodates 435 cars. The garage’s automated parking is credit card ready and is free on weekends and daily after 4:00. At all other times the cost is $8.
With 170,000 square feet, largely devoted to parking, the Segal Visitors Center was expertly designed by the renowned Chicago architectural firm Perkins+Will. Founded on the belief that design has the power to transform lives, the firm’s holistic approach to architecture addresses complex problems under the guise of innovative design and unparalleled creatively. With a deep dedication to sustainability and social responsibility, Perkins+Will is committed to creating regenerative designs which heal their environments and provide lasting enhancements to the lives of their clients. The build was designed with a minimum goal of LEED CI Silver rating per the USGBC system and additional sustainable features include a geothermal heat exchange system to heat and cool the garage area and reserved spaces for charging electric cars.
Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune notes:
“On the west and south facades, [the firm] 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.
Not only does the design of the Segal center reflect the architecture of Northwestern University, but it elevates the visitor’s experience by creating an unforgettable entry to the campus. Gordon Segal, the founder and former CEO of Crate & Barrel and Northwestern Alum who helped fund the project with his wife, Carole, declared, “It’s something that is going to be really important when people come here, and instead of being enclosed by concrete and stone, they are enclosed by glass — so they can look out at the lake and look out at the gardens and look out at the park-like scenery of this University.”
Parking at the Block Museum has never been easier or more beautiful. (We recommend the lake view from the topmost floor.) Next time you plan to visit the Block, make sure to park at this remarkable building!
– Contributed by Mai Morsch, Block Museum Curatorial Intern, Summer 2016