Walter Eckenhoff is co-founder and principal of Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, Inc. (ESA), a 40-person office based in Chicago. Over the years ESA has developed an extensive portfolio in many sectors, ranging from healthcare, banking and education to industrial, hospitality and residential projects.
Born in Philadelphia, Eckenhoff moved to Chicago as a teenager. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture in 1972 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1974, both from Washington University. He launched ESA in 1983 with fellow alumnus W. Stephen Saunders, AIA (BA ’72).
The majority of Eckenhoff’s work as been in the design and planning of healthcare institutions. In the past 20 years ESA has overseen $600 million in new healthcare facilities, including four hospital campuses for the NorthShore University HealthSystem — Evanston, Highland Park, Glenbrook and Skokie hospitals — as well as three outpatient family care campuses and the Evanston/Northwestern University Research Park.
Other projects range from the 900,000-square-foot Northern Trust Company Banking Operations Center to the $75 million Southgate Market Retail Center to the new 26-story Dana Hotel, all in downtown Chicago. ESA’s Unicom Franklin/Van Buren Cooling Plant (1999), also downtown, was named Project of the Year by the Illinois Engineering Council and received Distinguished Building Awards from both AIA Chicago and the Chicago Athenaeum.
Additional honors include an AIA Chicago Honor Award for the Unicom State/Adams Cooling Plant (1996); a Distinguished Building Award from the Chicago Athenaeum for Tower 2000 (1999); and an Evanston Preservation Award (1991).
A longtime member of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Eckenhoff has held virtually every volunteer leadership position in the organization, including two terms as chair of the Board of Trustees. He also is a member of the American College of Healthcare Architects and, in 2009, was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.