What Should Obama’s Presidential Library Look Like?

Columbia University: open space, throughout the community. Image © Alfonso Medina/T38 Studio via the Guardian

Barack Obama still has two years left in his presidency, but speculative planning for his has already begun for each of the four possible final locations. Just as the election of President Obama broke down historical precedents for who could hold office, could the design of his dedication library represent an architectural shift from previous libraries? This article by Lilah Raptopoulos from The Guardian presents four unofficial visions for the design of the new library, each of them from award-winning architects. Their bold design sketches expand our perceptions of what a presidential library could be, and explore new ways in which these libraries could serve their communities. See all four designs and read the full article from The Guardian entitled, “Obama’s presidential library: four radical visions of the future from top architects.”

Obama Shortlists Four Potential Sites for Presidential Library

A proposal for Chicago’s South Side from earlier in the competition by Michael Sorkin (click image for more details). Image © Michael Sorkin Studio

The Foundation has listed four potential sites for Obama’s and museum: Columbia University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Universities considered were selected for demonstrating the ability to develop a strong vision and design a library that could enhance the local economy. Each institution will now work towards refining their ideas and will submit formal proposals by December.

Michael Sorkin Sites Future Obama Presidential Library in Chicago’s South Side

Plan View Depicting Future Library Bridging 63rd Street. Image Courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio

Bidding for the future home of ’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.

Obama Appoints Michael Graves to Key Administration Post

Courtesy of & Associates

Today, President announced his intent to appoint five individuals to key Administration posts, including architecture’s very own Michael Graves, stating: “These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles.  Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

The five individuals include:

The Design Implications of President Obama’s Commitment to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

January 21, 2013, Inaugural Speech; Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

This past Monday, President Obama made and sustainable energy the focal points of his Inaugural Address when he declared that choosing to ignore these key environmental issues “would betray our children and future generations.” This is the first time in the last few months that the President has taken a firm stand for the future of our Earth, a direct result of Super Storm Sandy and a smart choice to reveal controversial policies only after re-election. Although Monday morning was not the time to outline a specific political strategy, President Obama made it very clear that this time around, denial of scientific judgment and Congressional opposition would not be reasons for failure to act.

Since this is a sentiment easier said than done, there is doubtlessly a long and difficult road ahead for the President and his administration. The White House has revealed that it plans to focus on what it can do to capitalize on natural gas production as an alternative to coal, on “reducing emissions from power plants, [increasing] the efficiency of home appliances and [on having] the federal government itself produce less carbon pollution” (NYTimes). According to the New York Times, they aim to adopt new energy efficiency standards for not only home appliances but for buildings as well, something that should spark the interests of architects and urban planners already committed to designing with climate change and sustainable energy in mind.

More after the break…

Obama speaks at the ground breaking ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group

President Obama attended the official ground breaking ceremony of the National Museum for African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on February 22, commemorating this milestone for the Institution’s new museum on Washington’s National Mall. The Tanzanian-born, London-based architect serves as Lead Designer for the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup (FAB) team that was selected by the Smithsonian Institute back in 2009 in the international competition for the design of the nation’s new prestigious building.

The President began his brief remarks by stating, “As others have mentioned, this day has been a long time coming. The idea for a museum dedicated to African Americans was first put forward by black veterans of the Civil War. And years later, the call was picked up by members of the civil rights generation -– by men and women who knew how to fight for what was right and strive for what is just. This is their day. This is your day. It’s an honor to be here to see the fruit of your labor.”

Continue reading for more information on the project and a video of President Obama’s speech.

Obama Appoints Architect Phil Freelon to US Commission of Fine Arts

On the first of December, President Obama announced his appointment of Philip G. Freelon, FAIA to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The Commission is composed of seven fine art experts and is obligated to give “expert advice to the President, Congress and the heads of departments and agencies of the Federal and District of Columbia governments on matters of design and aesthetics, as they affect the Federal interest and preserve the dignity of the nation’s capital.” The Commission is also responsible to advise the U.S. Mint on the design of coins and medals, and approves the location and design of national memorials, both within the U.S. and around the World.

President Obama stated, “I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

Commission members serve four-year terms without compensation and may be reappointed. Since the Commission was established in 1910 by Act of Congress, many renowned American architects, landscape architects, planners and artists have been appointed. Past Commission members include architects and landscape architects Daniel Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Gilmore Clarke, Gordon Bunshaft, and Chloethiel Smith; and artists Daniel Chester French, Francis Millet, Lee Lawrie, Paul Manship, and Frederick Hart.

projects at ArchDaily:

New High-Speed Rail Plan for the US

Transport infrastructure has defined the shape of almost every city in recent years. But there is also a wider scale in terms of territorial connectivity that has shaped  regions, not just in its form but also in their economies. Typical examples are the high speed rail networks in France and Japan. And it the US? The opposite: a collapsed -and slow- airport system.

But today US President announced his High-Speed Rail Plan, included on his stimulus plan with a budget of $8 billion for the next two years, and $1 billion per year over the next five years. This will be focused on 9 new corridors, and to improve the existing line between Washington and Boston:

  • a northern New England line
  • an Empire line running east to west in New York State
  • a Keystone corridor running laterally through Pennsylvania
  • a southeast network connecting the District of Columbia to Florida and the Gulf Coast
  • a Gulf Coast line extending from eastern Texas to western Alabama
  • a corridor in central and southern Florida
  • a Texas-to-Oklahoma line
  • a corridor in the Pacific Northwest.
  • a California corridor where voters have already approved a line that will allow travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two and a half hours (versus 1:45 plus the security checks and waiting time by airplane)

This also reminds me of the recent Union Station 2020 competition “Crossroads for the High-Speed Rail City”, envisioning ´s Union Station as a territorial high-speed rail hub. You can see the results here.

“ Imagine boarding a train in the center of a city.  No racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes.   Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination.  Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America.

In France, high-speed rail has pulled regions from isolation, ignited growth, remade quiet towns into thriving tourist destinations.  In Spain, a high-speed line between Madrid and Seville is so successful that more people travel between those cities by rail than by car and airplane combined.  China, where service began just two years ago, may have more miles of high-speed rail service than any other country just five years from now.  And Japan, the nation that unveiled the first high-speed rail system, is already at work building the next:  a line that will connect Tokyo with Osaka at speeds of over 300 miles per hour.  So it’s being done; it’s just not being done here.

- Barack Obama

This plan will surely help the AEC industry by generating several jobs, same as other parts of the stimulus package. The question is, how we (the architects) can play a more active role when it comes to infrastructure? And not just in terms of designing train stations or bus stops, but embracing a wide array of buildings/structures that are the visible face of our cities (roads, bridges, ports, power plants), and also a new business opportunity for us in times like these.

Detailed info:

Obama wanted to be an architect (thanks he didn´t)

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Did you know that wanted to be an architect? Thank god he didn´t, otherwise he wouldn´t be assuming as the US President tomorrow.

(seen on AMNP)