The Heart of Campus

lakefront from unviersity commons location

lakefront from unviersity commons location

lakefront from unviersity commons location

lakefront from unviersity commons location

The Commons is being designed to serve as the heart of the campus - open and inclusive to all. It will be a place of comfort and warmth, delivering both relaxation and stimulation, supporting both introspection and interaction. Here, students will take part in formal and informal learning, and the campus community can share and experience innovation and research.

Envisioned as a setting where Northwestern community members of varied backgrounds, class years, majors, and affinities will want to be, the Commons is expected to become a home base for life outside the classroom, with space for activities, socializing, and great food. It will bring students together and round out their academic work with activities that complement coursework, modernizing the traditional student union experience.


  • Open forum spaces will let crowds gather where students can see and be seen, hear and be heard.
  • Intimate conversations will unfold in specially carved-out spaces.
  • Student activity areas will encourage innovation and partnership.
  • Faculty will come together in collaborative conference spaces.
  • Enticing dining options and a coffee house will cater to various tastes and budgets.
  • Recreation and wellness options such as outdoor, game, and arts spaces will provide an inviting atmosphere to attract every kind of student.
  • Spaces will adapt and fundamentally change as needed for activities throughout the day and from year to year.
  • Students will benefit from the black box theater and collaborate in the dining spaces, student organization area, meeting rooms, and more.
  • A range of study spaces will offer options for both independent work and group projects.
  • A multipurpose room will host banquets, meetings, and celebrations of the University's accomplishments; including global endeavors. With a total capacity anticipated to be close to double the current ballroom space, this room can be divided into smaller spaces for even greater flexibility.

At Northwestern, our home will be the Commons. It will holistically represent our student undergraduate experience: part academic, part cocurricular, part social. We will come here to work with our Executive Board teams, to learn with our peers, and, most importantly, to spend time with people we love.

-Julia Watson, 2014-15 Associated Student Government President

A Unique Lakefront Setting

Northwestern offers one of the most stunning locations of any college in the country. With its unique waterfront setting, the new University Commons will serve as a hub where the broader Northwestern community intersects and where a unified Northwestern is nurtured and celebrated. The building will symbolize Northwestern's core values and sustainably coexist with the natural environment. The proposed plans reach outward and celebrate the exquisite surroundings, embracing Lake Michigan while also connecting to key campus spaces.

  • Connections will be visual and functional both to campus and the lake. The proximity between the Library and Commons will be leveraged to reinforce a new social and intellectual nexus on campus.
  • The design will maximize beautiful outdoor spaces, flowing into the nearby Arts Green, another important community space that will unite Northwestern's fine and performing arts venues and programs.

As we have seen with current and future capital projects, Northwestern is focusing on the lakefront's contributions to the campus environment. The new University Commons will capture the essence of its lakefront location more effectively, and it will connect with academic, library, and arts neighbors to the north, west, and south.
-Kelly Schaefer, Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement

Click here to donate to the New University Commons project.