Obama Foundation names architects for presidential library

The Obama Foundation announced Thursday the architects leading the design of the Obama Presidential Center to be built in the president’s hometown of Chicago. 

{mosads}Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, based in New York, and the Interactive Design Architects, based in Chicago, will design the project on the Windy City’s South Side, the foundation said. 

The Center, which will include a library holding the presidential archives and a museum focusing on the Obama presidency, will be built on one of two locations being considered by the foundation: either Jackson Park or Washington Park. 

Tod Williams and his wife, Billie Tsien, were awarded the National Medal of Arts by Obama in 2013 and are currently designing the U.S. Embassy complex in Mexico City. 

Interactive Design Architects is a self-described minority- and women-owned business enterprise with deep roots in the Chicago area. That firm was not among the initial seven finalists selected in December. 

Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Obama Foundation, said the two architecture firms “resonated deeply” with the Obamas, who thought they would best serve the center’s mission.

President and Michelle Obama were also impressed with the experience of the architects in designing civic and educational projects, Nesbitt said.

“Thoughtful, dignified, beautiful and understated I think are all qualities that I think can be said to characterize much of the Obama presidency and hopefully they will be translated into a building or expressed some way in architectural form,” Nesbitt said. 

The foundation initially launched its search for architects in 2015, a hunt Nesbitt called “exhaustive.” More than 140 firms worldwide submitted proposals, and seven finalists were announced in December. 

Construction on the project, which is estimated to cost at least $500 million, won’t begin until January 2017 at least, with hundreds of millions in private funds left to be raised, The Chicago Tribune reports. The project is expected to be completed in 2020 or 2021. 

Nesbitt said the final site of the project will be announced by the end of the year.

The Obamas have previously discussed the importance of having the center on the South Side of Chicago. 

“All the strands of my life came together, and I really became a man, when I moved to Chicago,” Obama said in an online video last year. 

He also called it a way to spur growth on the city’s South Side, a diverse area where some neighborhoods battle crime and poverty. 

“With a library and a foundation both on the South Side of Chicago, not only will we be able to encourage and affect change locally, but what we can also do is attract the world to Chicago,” Obama said. 


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