Northwestern University Wave Wall
SmithGroup partnered with Northwestern University to design an innovative structure that protects a key lakefront facility from coastal wave impacts and flooding.
Campus Placemaking, Civil Engineering, Coastal Engineering, Higher Education, Landscape Architecture, Shoreline Protection & Restoration, Waterfront
Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA), Honor Award, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 2021
Award in "Divine Detail" Category, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago, 2020
Merit Award, Excellence in Architecture for a New Building, The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), 2019
Excellence in Structural Engineering Award, National Council of Structural Engineers Association (NCSEA), 2020
Custom Solution Award, Precast/Prestressed Institute Building Awards, 2019
Coastal resilience is emerging as an important theme in the architectural and engineering world as waterfront areas face a growing range of extreme conditions and risks. Northwestern University was concerned that the Ryan Fieldhouse & Walter Athletics Center, a new, state-of-the-art facility located close to the shore of Lake Michigan, might not be sufficiently protected from waves and ice given rising lake levels.
SmithGroup was brought in to solve this challenge. Our coastal engineers performed a comprehensive analysis using offshore and nearshore numerical models to determine the wave conditions and impacts at various water levels and wind intensities. Studies confirmed that the convergence of high winds and high lake levels posed a threat to their already-designed and under-construction $280 million athletic center.
Not content just to solve the engineering problem, the design team also considered the aesthetics of the wave wall. The pre-cast concrete sections were designed to resemble a wave form, with a coloration that complements the limestone on the athletic center. The result is a visually appealing structure that protects the new building from waves and ice movement and deepens the coastal resilience of Northwestern’s beautiful lakefront campus.