A new plan for the southeast corner of Northwestern University’s Evanston campus envisions a new building for the School of Music and the creation of a broad “arts green” in the area between the Theater and Interpretation Center, Block Museum of Art, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and the new building.

Developed by the planning and architectural firm of Sasaki and Associates, Boston, with the assistance of a university advisory committee, the plan suggests a dramatic reshaping of the southeast corner of the Evanston campus. The result would be improved facilities for the School of Music, increased open space and the creation of “an iconic sense of place,” according to the planning document unveiled publicly today (Jan. 27).

As is always the case with conceptual plans, the proposal for the southeast area of campus is dependent on funding, but University officials say they are hopeful that part of the first phase of the project could begin in the next two-to-three years.

“This location has the potential to become a very striking and visible area of Northwestern’s campus, one that would be literally visible for miles,” said Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen. “Every year, Northwestern attracts thousands of visitors to the fine arts facilities in this part of campus, as well as our own students, faculty and staff, so we’re very excited about the possibilities for this area.”

As envisioned, the new music building would consist of two wings, one attached to Pick-Staiger and one attached to Regenstein Hall of Music. The new facilities would provide approximately 150,000 gross square feet of space for classrooms, studio practice rooms, rehearsal areas, faculty offices and other academic uses. All of the music buildings would be linked, creating a “music village” that would facilitate movement of students, faculty, staff and audience members between the new and existing buildings.

“There is no question that the new building would be transforming for the School of Music,” said Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the School of Music. “For the first time in decades, the entire school would be under one roof. And because the arts green concept would bring the School of Communication and Block Museum in close proximity to the School of Music, with Medill nearby, interdisciplinary activities with those units become far more feasible. I am thrilled with the prospect of such changes for the School of Music.”

The School of Music and the University’s development office are actively seeking funds for the new building, Montgomery said. “There’s nothing definite yet, however we’re very optimistic,” she added.

Another key component of the first-phase plan is the creation of an “arts green” that would provide a large open space between the buildings in that area. The green space, approximately 90 feet wide with paving stone walkways around the outside of it, would extend from Norris Center southeast to the existing parking garage. It would preserve and enhance views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline .

“The arts green would provide open space that will provide a sense of place for the southeast campus area and define the sites for future buildings,” said Ron Nayler, associate vice president for facilities management, who has coordinated the planning effort.

Cost estimates for the two first-phase projects, along with related landscaping projects on the east side of Regenstein and the entrance to Campus Drive at the south end of campus, are being developed, Nayler said.

The long-range plan for the area includes even more extensive redevelopment, including replacing the existing two-level parking deck with a larger garage that would be located slightly farther west, thereby allowing the arts green to be extended all the way to the lake, near where the existing boathouse is located. Doing that would provide space for several additional buildings to be constructed in that area, Nayler said.

Expanding Norris University Center and removing Locy Hall and replacing it with a larger structure also are suggested as part of the long-range plan.

No timetable and cost estimates have been established for the second phase of the plan, Nayler said.

President Bienen cautioned that the plans for the area are not fully funded and are likely to undergo further revision before any construction begins, but he expressed optimism about the project’s prospects.

“We’ve had extremely valuable input from the School of Music, members of our Board of Trustees, and others in developing the plans so far, and our consulting firm has helped us develop an exciting vision,” Bienen said. “We clearly have an opportunity to create a distinctive and beautiful area that will further showcase our campus.”

  • new building
  • Toni-Marie Montgomery