Obamas unveil design for presidential museum and library on Chicago's South Side

We believe that architecture is the coming together of art and use, and can bring a sense of grace to life
– Tod Williams and Billie Tsien

Barack and Michelle Obama, the former president and first lady of the United States, have today (4 May) unveiled the design of the planned Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side.

Designed by Todd Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the complex will be formed of a museum dedicated to Obama’s presidency, a library of his archives and a forum to advance the Obama Foundation’s public mission to promote global progress.

Visitors will arrive at the northern end of the complex, which houses the museum – the tallest structure on site and “a beacon” for the Obama Center.

The two other main facilities will be single-story buildings with planted terraces and landscaped roofs. Pathways will take visitors from the surrounding park to the top of the structures, offering views of a surrounding public plaza, lagoon and Lake Michigan.

The Center will be open to the public as “a place for doing and making and looking and learning”. It will include indoor and outdoor spaces for events, training, and other gatherings.

“Set in the public space of Jackson Park, the Center’s campus will invite visitors to flow through the architecture and into the park,” said the Obama Foundation in a statement. “This approach will soften the transition between city, landscape, lagoon, and lake.

“The Center will be a real-life symbol of the president and Mrs. Obama’s commitment to sustainability. The project will, at a minimum, be LEED v4 Platinum, and we are exploring the possibility to surpass those qualifications.”

The foundation is collaborating on the project with the Museum of Science and Industry, the DuSable Museum, the University of Chicago, and the City of Chicago, as well as local design practice Interactive Design Architects.

Speaking earlier this week at the American Institute of Architects’ annual conference, Michelle Obama described the process of collaborating with the Center’s design team.

She said: "Our architects are so much fun. The creative process – space, time – they think about things that we wouldn't ever think of.

“We're closely considering the exterior, how it will relate to the community. The architects we're working with are phenomenal; they're listening, they're doing their homework, they're researching and starting to understand the South Side of Chicago."

She also revealed her husband, former president Barack Obama, once wanted to be an architect.

"Barack is an artist, though he tries to downplay it," she said. “He's the kind of guy who says, 'I don't care what the living room looks like,' and then has a thousand questions and opinions about everything. He's someone with ideas, he's someone who thinks big. That's what architects do too, right?"

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.

A video showcasing the design of the Obama Presidential Center can be viewed below.

Barack Obama  Michelle Obama  Obama Foundartion  Obama Presidential Center  Chicago  South Side  architecture  design  US  Todd Williams  Billie Tsien 
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Barack and Michelle Obama, the former president and first lady of the United States, have today (4 May) unveiled the design of the planned Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side. Designed by Todd Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the complex will be formed of a museum dedicated to Obama’s presidency, a library of his archives and a forum to advance the Obama Foundation’s public mission to promote global progress. Visitors
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Visitors will arrive at the northern end of the complex, which houses the museum / The Obama Foundation
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