above> rendering courtesy obama foundation
today barack and michelle obama came (home) to chicago to unveil concepts of the barack obama presidential center, the designated library for the 44th president of the united states. to an invitation-only event for 300 of the city’s and site neighborhood civic leaders. the former president said there is a tendency to see presidential libraries as “a monument to the past, a little bit of ego-tripping.” instead, he wants a building that “looked forward, not backward, and would provide a place to train future leaders to make a change in their communities, countries and the world.”
the site is 10 miles south of chicago’s loop and a stones throw west of where the world’s columbian exposition was held, a world’s fair in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of christopher columbus’s arrival in the new world in 1492.
the project eliminates cornell drive a major commuter route that cut through the park and was a contentious option to pull off. however, the result will be to tie together a natural environment of lakes and parks and lake michigan to the east and a built environment to the west. the library promises to strengthen the local economy, create new jobs and revitalize the historic park in the process.
above > courtesy e. jason wambsgans chicago tribune / below> aerial view courtesy chicago tribune and site plan renderings courtesy obama foundation
the presidential center is not a single building but a series of buildings that form a campus, similar to richard meier‘s ‘separate building’ concept of the getty center in los angeles. the structural architectural footprint is reduced by the roofs of the adjacent single-story library and forum with its covered plantings to create new park land. ‘together these buildings will form a campus, a place for doing and making, as well as looking and learning, and will build upon jackson park’s history as a public gathering place on the south side,’ explains the obama foundation.
the museum tower is 180 feet tall and contains an exhibition space along with education and meeting rooms. to it’s south is the forum building with an auditorium, restaurant with a public garden and the library building.
of keen interest, the library will be the first presidential library to fully digitize obama’s unclassified paper records. the paper documents themselves are at separate facilities maintained by the national archives and records administration (nara), which has control over obama’s records, the foundation said. nara can provide access to the obama presidential records virtually. if the library, or another museum, needs a physical copy of a document, it will be made available on loan from the national archives.
the obama foundation selected tod williams billie tsien architects | partners (twbta) to lead the design team and interactive design architects (idea) to be their partner. twbta stood out in their commitment to explore the best ways of creating an innovative center for citizenship. headquartered in new york, the studio focuses on work for institutions including museums, schools, and not-for-profits. their buildings are carefully made from the inside out to be functional in ways that speak to both efficiency and the spirit. idea brings local knowledge and a track record for delivering excellence to large, complex civic projects.
“we’re building a living, working center for good citizenship. right here on the south side of chicago. wherever you call home, whatever your walk of life, we hope you’ll join us.” ~ barack obama [ obama foundation ] [ the finalists ]