Four compete for Barack Obama's presidential library

by Tom Anstey | 07 Jan 2015

Four US universities are currently battling it out to host Barack Obama’s US$500m (€419.5m, £329m) presidential library – a repository for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every President of the United States since Herbert Hoover in 1929.

The President and first lady will choose one location from either the University of Chicago, Columbia University in New York, the University of Illinois in Chicago or the University of Hawaii as host of the archive, learning and visitor complex documenting Obama’s time in office.

In Hawaii, Snøhetta Architects has revealed its plans for the Barack Obama Presidential Center. The plans, designed in conjunction with Honolulu-based WCITArchitecture, are inspired by the forms of a coral reef. The design incorporates sustainable solutions, with landscape design including interactive educational environments including the White House Garden, fish ponds, taro fields and salt pans to promote understanding of traditional practice in Hawaii. As part of the plans, an institute, leadership academy, library, visitor centre and museum have all been touted.

The University of Chicago’s current plan would see the centre built on landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s Washington Park, though the proposed plans have run into trouble from ‘Friends of the Parks’ – the same group which recently filed a lawsuit against filmmaker George Lucas’ proposed legacy museum. The improvements around the library include enhanced access for pedestrians and cyclists, renovation or replacement of ageing facilities, and other attractions such as urban farms.

Also in Chicago, the University of Illinois’ (UIC) proposal identifies three potential locations – the academic campus of UIC, the medical campus of UIC, and a proposed community campus in North Lawndale.

Columbia – where the President gained an undergraduate degree in political science in 1983 before moving to Chicago to become a community organiser, state legislator and US senator – is offering land on or near Columbia's campus on the upper west side of Manhattan, though beyond this, details are sparse.

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Four US universities are currently battling it out to host Barack Obama’s US$500m (€419.5m, £329m) presidential library – a repository for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every President of the United States since Herbert Hoover in 1929. The President and first lady will choose one location from either the University of Chicago, Columbia University in New York, the University of Illinois in
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Snøhetta's design for the Barack Obama Presidential Center / Snøhetta Architects
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