Northwetern University - Pi Beta Phi Sorority


Northwestern University is committed to design excellence as it improves access to its historic facilities. The unique challenges to improving access to the Pi Beta Phi sorority house were maintaining the classic quadrangle landscape and not drawing attention to a ramp. So we decided not to design one; instead we created an ‘accessible walkway.’  By stretching the ascending walkway out along the length of the eastern boundary of the quad, we were able to make the slope shallower than 1:20.  This means that it is an ‘accessible walkway’ and not a ramp with all of the attendant guardrail requirements.  A guardrail was required at the eastern edge of the completely renovated patio and at the top of the walkway because of the height above adjacent grade.  But by minimizing slope,  blending the walkway into a landscaped berm at the edge of the quad, and matching the existing stone for a new, short knee wall east of the ramp, the project provides comfortable access to the building while preserving the character of the classic quadrangle landscape.