Bidding for the future home of Barack Obama's Presidential Library is underway with three locations claiming the chief executive as their own. Obama's birthplace, Hawaii, has mounted a campaign in pursuit of their native son, followed by New York City's Columbia University, where he received his bachelor's degree in political science. Architect and urbanist Michael Sorkin believes it is the Windy City, however, his adopted hometown, that will ultimately win the presidential library bid.
"Chicago is clearly to be preferred," predicts Sorkin, the First Family will presumably return there post-presidency in 2017; after all, that is where Obama's first deep contributions in public service took place and where his political roots reside.
The question Sorkin hopes to address now is, what neighborhood?
"…The neighborhoods bruited as choices in Chicago (half a dozen have appeared on one list or another) might all strongly benefit from the injection of institutional activity and investment. Although there are appealing arguments for several of these possibilities, far and away the best choice would be Woodlawn, on the city’s South Side."
Sorkin's schematic master plan locates the library on several large vacant lots on 63rd Street, a move that would merge the University of Chicago's campus with the neighboring Woodlawn — two infamously segregated territories. Through the planning of new green, residential and commercial spaces, Sorkin hopes that this may become the first "truly urban" presidential center:
"The Obama library has the opportunity to become a genuinely local player and to contribute to the improvement of everyday life for the neighborhoods that surround it. This will require a physical and social architecture that is supportive, not aggressive or standoffish. It offers the chance to build a model environment."
View Michael Sorkin Studio's full proposal for the Barack Obama Community Library.
Architects: Michael Sorkin Studio
Location: Woodlawn, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
Architect in Charge: Michael Sorkin
Design Team: Makoto Okazaki, Ying Liu, Jie Gu, Trudy Giordano, Michael Parkinson
Project Year: 2017
Photographs: Courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio