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Obama Library Location, Architects Set

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

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The nonprofit Obama Foundation has announced that the Obama Presidential Center, which will open after President Barack Obama leaves office, will be located in Jackson Park, on Chicago’s South Side.

The announcement, which came Friday (July 29), follows the earlier announcement that Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners (TWBTA) will work with Interactive Design Architects (IDEA) to design the building, which will house Obama’s archives and host exhibits on the president and issues important to his administration. It is reportedly projected to open in 2021.

President's Choice

Jackson Park, on the shore of Lake Michigan, was chosen by Barack and Michelle Obama from a set of proposals gathered by the foundation. The park, adjacent to the neighborhoods of Woodlawn and Hyde Park, was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and was the site of the 1893 World’s Fair.

Jackson Park from the air
David B. Gleason, CC BY-SA, via Flickr

Jackson Park, on the shore of Lake Michigan, was chosen by Barack and Michelle Obama as the site of the Obama Presidential Center.

The Obama family lived on the South Side for a time, and Obama represented the district when he was an Illinois state senator, from 1997-2004.

“We are proud that the center will help spur development in an urban area and we can’t wait to forge new ways to give back to the people of Chicago, who have given us so much,”  President Obama said in a statement released by the foundation.

About the Architects

The Obama Foundation announced in late June that TWBTA and IDEA would be the architects for the presidential library; the foundation says 140 original submissions were culled to seven finalists before the final selection was made. The library’s design has not been made public yet.

TWBTA is a New York-based firm headed up by husband and wife Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The firm’s projects have included the in-progress U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, and various academic and institutional buildings throughout the United States and elsewhere.

World's Fair 1893 bird's-eye view
Rand McNally and Company - public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The park, adjacent to the neighborhoods of Woodlawn and Hyde Park, was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and was the site of the 1893 World’s Fair.

IDEA, based in Chicago, was established in 1992; notable projects the firm has led include the creation of a Chicago Public Library branch in a historic landmark building, the old Goldblatt’s department store.

“Interactive Design Architects brings local knowledge and a track record for delivering excellence to large, complex civic projects,” said Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Obama Foundation.

Other staff on the project are reported to include Roark Frankel, who has worked on projects including Chicago's famous Cloud Gate sculpture ("The Bean").

Presidential Library System

The Obama Presidential Center will be the 14th facility to be recognized by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The NARA libraries program began in 1939, piloted by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the first official library was Herbert Hoover’s. Some earlier presidents have unofficial museum sites that are not part of the NARA network.

Presidential libraries are funded by donations and receive no government funding. The NARA oversees the design of the centers to ensure compliance with its architectural standards, however.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Design; Government; Libraries

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