Slate waterwall replicates Lake Michigan's shoreline

February 1, 2005
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In 1999, Evanston Hospital in Chicago, the flagship campus of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare (ENH), began an 80,000-square-foot multi-phased renovation, which included the addition of an illuminated slate waterwall to its lobby. According to Chicago-based Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, the water feature was die-cut to be an exact replica of the shoreline of Lake Michigan, which is located near the hospital in Evanston, IL. In order to create a soothing feel for the hospital, the architects selected Burlington Natstone, Inc.'s Broughton Moor slate from England for the 1,800-square-foot waterwall, and Bursting Stone for the column bases and pool.

Burlington's slate was previously used in the lobby of another one of ENH's hospitals -- Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, IL -- and the client wanted to keep Broughton Moor as a standard design feature throughout the health-care system.

According to the architectural firm, the waterwall in Evanston Hospital is the first time that the slate was used in such a unique way at an ENH facility. “We wanted a material that related to the color of Lake Michigan and would also serve as an acceptable finish when the waterwall was non-functional during maintenance,” said Walter L. Eckenhoff, Principal of Eckenhoff Saunders Architects. “The particular finish of this product brought depth to the wall that would have been difficult to achieve in another way. Plus, it integrates Evanston Hospital with ENH's other facilities.”

Water is run across the line-texture slate, which creates “waves” on the wall and introduces a calming background noise. A honed slate is used at the bottom of the wall -- which stands three-stories high -- accelerating the waves as if they were running onto a sandy shore. The wall is illuminated from above, which gives the slate an iridescent, glimmering look, much like water in the sunlight, according to the architect.

Eckenhoff said that the lobby atrium was designed to be the heart of the hospital, the place where all circulation paths and entrances converge. The architects wanted this gateway to be a rejuvenating space that would promote healing and relieve stress. “Research shows that the design environment in hospitals has a strong impact on the healing process,” said Eckenhoff. “We wanted the lobby atrium to be a place for patients to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. And, to achieve this, the space had to be warm, human and inspirational.”

Eckenhoff added that the biggest challenge was flush mounting the stone to the steel structure, and that working with an experienced stone setter helped overcome this obstacle.

According to Phil Harding of Burlington Natstone, Inc. of Plano, TX, the company supplied approximately 2,000 square feet of material for the project. Broughton Moor slate in honed 1 1⁄4-inch-thick pieces were used as cladding to the water feature. Some pieces had both honed and line-textured finishes in various sizes. Countertops and a reception desk were also topped with 3-inch-thick slabs of honed Broughton Moor. Harding said that honed Bursting Stone in 5 3⁄8-inch pieces were used as capping to the top of the weir on the water feature in 3⁄4-inch slug-shaped pieces. The same stone was used for the flooring of the pool and for column bases, which were approximately 12 inches in size.

Construction of the work at Evanston Hospital began in 1999 and finished in 2002.

According to the architects, the reaction to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has been used as a hallmark for the design of ENH's other facilities. The lobby is a natural space for informal meetings among staff and quiet reflection for patients and their families. “The multi-dimensional effect of the waterwall has no small effect on making this a space for life and healing,” said Eckenhoff.

End box

Evanston Hospital
Evanston, IL

Architect: Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, Chicago, IL
Stone Supplier: Burlington Natstone, Inc., Plano, TX
Stone Quarrier: Burlington Slate, Ltd., England
Stone Installer: Spectrum StoneGroup, LaGrange, IL
General Contractor: W.E. O'Neil Construction Co., Evanston, IL

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