Obamas choose New York architects to lead design of their presidential library and museum

by Kim Megson | 01 Jul 2016

Barack and Michelle Obama have chosen the architectural team of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners (TWBTA) and Interactive Design Architects (IDEA) to design the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

The Obama Foundation – started by the Obamas in 2014 to “inspire the next generation of young leaders across the world" – issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to seven architectural firms in December. The shortlist, which was whittled down from a list of 140 interested firms, included big names including Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Renzo Piano and Snøhetta.

When built, the centre will include a library holding the presidential archives, a museum focusing on the Obama presidency and space for initiatives that advance the foundation’s public mission to promote global progress.

TWBTA, based in New York, and IDEA, based in Chicago, will lead a multidisciplinary team that may include as many as 20 other firms engaged in various specialty areas. The Obama Foundation will manage the design and construction of the Center in collaboration with a project management team yet to be named.

“TWBTA stood out in their commitment to exploring the best ways of creating an innovative centre for action that inspires communities and individuals to take on our biggest challenges,” said the foundation’s chair, Martin Nesbitt. “IDEA bring local knowledge and a track record for delivering excellence to large, complex civic projects.”

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the husband-and-wife founding partners of TWBTA, said: "We believe that architecture is the coming together of art and use, and can bring a sense of grace to life. The greatest buildings are places which contribute to more than their particular task by elevating and improving the world.

“We are deeply moved by the mission of the Obama Foundation and the role the Center can play in empowering that mission. It is a joy, an honour, and a responsibility to create a place that reflects the optimism and integrity of the President and the First Lady.

“This has been a transformative presidency and we will work to make a Center that embodies and expands the Obamas' vision.”

The firm’s previous leisure projects include the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago and the Barnes Foundation art museum in Philadelphia.

The Obama Foundation is currently considering two sites for the location of the Center – Jackson Park and Washington Park on the South Side. The cost of the project will be approximately US$500m (€450m, £376m). Work is set to begin next year, and completed by 2021.

The presidential library system began in 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt donated his presidential papers to the federal government to be preserved and made accessible to the public.

There are currently 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), beginning with the 31st President, Herbert Hoover.

Barack Obama  Michelle Obama  Obama Foundation  presidential library  Chicago  Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects  Interactive Design Architects  
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Barack and Michelle Obama have chosen the architectural team of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners (TWBTA) and Interactive Design Architects (IDEA) to design the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. The Obama Foundation – started by the Obamas in 2014 to “inspire the next generation of young leaders across the world" – issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to seven architectural firms in December. The shortlist, which was whittled
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The Obama Foundation was launched by the Obamas in 2014 to 'inspire the next generation of young leaders across the world' / Susan Walsh/AP/PA Images
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