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 Presidential Library 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 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.”

Is The Design Museum Dying?

Oct Design Museum (Shenzhen) / Studio Pei-Zhu. Image Courtesy of Studio Pei-Zhu

In an article for the Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote asks “what are design museums actually for?” Noting that we are living through a “boom time” for the typology, Heathcote argues that when we are overwhelmed by design in our day to day lives, what will fill these spaces? ’s Victoria & Albert Museum sprouted from the legacy of the 1850 Great Exhibition, where the concept of a design museum originated, as an attempt to “display the fruits of Britain’s industrial revolution.” Ironically in the very same museum in 2013, curator Kieran Long acquired a print of the world’s first 3D printed gun for the permanent collection. Will the ubiquity of ‘design’ soon negate the need for dedicated spaces? Read Heathcote’s conclusions in full here.

New Images Take You Inside ALA’s Helsinki Central Library

Central Library. Image ©

Take a tour inside ALA Architect’s Helsinki Central Library with a new animation and set of images revealing the project’s spacious interiors. The project, which was awarded to ALA through an international competition, boasts a unique set of programs, such as a ground floor cinema, second story sauna, “Nerd Attic” and dreamy “Book Heaven” that is topped with a cloud-like undulating roof and includes a distinctive outdoor “Citizens’ Balcony.”

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 presidential library 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 a library that could enhance the local economy. Each institution will now work towards refining their ideas and will submit formal proposals by December.

Thomas Phifer and Partners Wins Competition to Design Museum of Modern Art Warsaw

View inside the Forum. Image ©

The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw has announced that Thomas Phifer and Partners will be designing their new gallery space, after winning a competition against eleven other selected practices. The new museum, the largest cultural project in recent Polish history, will also house the TR Warsawa Theatre. The proposal consists of two separate buildings housing the theater and museum, joined by a common forum that will serve both as entrance and public multi-use space.

Visiting Gunārs Birkerts’s Latvian “Castle of Light”

National Library of Latvia, Riga

For an article featured in Blueprint Herbert Wright examines Riga’s new National Library of Latvia, completed by 89-year-old Gunārs Birkerts this month. Located in one of Latvia’s most historic urban settings, the library – locally known as the “Castle of Light” – challenges the city’s recent history of Soviet public architecture with a contemporary, if not as equally monumental, cultural edifice. Initially conceived in 1988 now, over twenty five years later, the structure stands as a €163million testament to Latvia’s rich academic and public cultural heritage. Earlier this year, “14,000 Latvians formed a 2km human chain to pass books from the old to new libraries.” Wright’s exploration of this seminal building on Birkert’s œuvre is complemented by Janis Dripe’s excellent photographic studies of what is certain to be one of the most important Eastern European buildings of this decade.

Bjarke Ingels Lays Foundation Brick at LEGO House

BIG‘s LEGO House is now under construction, following a one of a kind foundation laying ceremony featuring – what else – supersized lego bricks. Bjarke Ingels himself was in attendance to lay one of the foundation bricks. Constructed in LEGO‘s hometown of Billund, Denmark, the LEGO House will be a 12,000 square metre “hands-on minds-on experience centre.”

More on the LEGO House, and the foundation laying ceremony, after the break

London Science Museum Selects Wilkinson Eyre to Design Medical Galleries

© Wilkinson Eyre

’s Science Museum has announced Wilkinson Eyre as the winner of its competition to design new medical galleries. Winning the project over a shortlist of six other architects – including Caruso St John, Amanda Levete Architects and Haworth Tompkins - Wilkinson Eyre’s £24 million galleries will occupy 3,000 square metres on the museum’s first floor, almost doubling the size of the museum’s existing galleries.

More on the Science Museum’s transformation after the break

Has The Surge Of Visitors to Museums & Galleries Reached A Tipping Point?

Crowds around Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre, . Image © Guia Besana

In an article for the New York Times Rachel Donadio examines Masterworks vs. the Masses. From the Louvre in Paris to London’s British Museum, Florence’s Uffizi to the Vatican Museums, the increasing surge of visitors to these international cultural nodes “has turned many museums into crowded, sauna-like spaces.” Balancing everyone’s right to be “nourished” by cultural experiences with protecting and preserving the works of art in question is a very real problem. According to Donadio, ”even when the art is secure, the experience can become irksome.” With some museums seeing annual visitors of up to 6.7 million visitors (British Museum), addressing the issues faced by institutions that are a victim of their own success is becoming more and more pressing. Read the article in full here.

Ábalos + Sentkiewicz Arquitectos Design Museum with Climate-Controlling Trees

Exterior View. Image © ABALOS+SENTKIEWICZ arquitectos

Sited in the city of Zhuhai, China, this museum by Ábalos + Sentkiewicz Arquitectos seeks to combine the opposing ideas of a festive, airy aesthetic with the need for a protected and enclosed space to showcase artwork. To that end, they have created a structure that resembles a with sculptural tree-like forms emerging from publicly accessible courtyards. These “trees”, while an important aspect of the building’s visual identity, also play a major role in the climate control of the museum.

Competition Entry Proposes Colorful Duo of Museums for Budapest

Exterior of the Architecture Museum. Image ©

Italian design firm IaN+ has put forth their vision for a pair of museums along the Dòzsa Gyorgy Boulevard in Budapest, Hungary for the Liget Budapest International Competition. Connected by a central foyer, the two exhibition spaces will be based on a common grid of structural concrete walls whose cells will form galleries. One of these museums will be devoted to , the other to architecture, and each building, while similar in appearance, is designed to best accommodate the work they will display.

Gehry Unveils Designs to Extend the Philadelphia Art Museum Downwards

The heart of the Museum will be opened up, creating a clear sight line through the ground-floor and first-floor galleries that will greatly simplify wayfinding. Image © Gehry Partners, LLP

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has revealed Frank Gehry‘s designs for a 169,000 square foot expansion that will see the museum dig down to create a new set of galleries underneath its existing footprint. Already an unusual choice for a project whose brief called to preserve the architectural integrity of the existing building, Gehry’s is an unexpectedly muted intervention, focusing on interior rearrangement and additions that are in keeping with the 86 year-old building’s aesthetic.

Perhaps the most dramatic alteration proposed by Gehry is a plan to punch a hole through the museum’s famous ‘Rocky steps’, the iconic training location from the Rocky film series, creating a window into the new subterranean galleries; however as the $350 million project will by necessity by undertaken in stages, this intervention is likely to be a subject of discussion for some time.

More on the design after the break

Peter Zumthor & LACMA Unveil Revised Museum Design

Model of the new design. Image © Atelier & Partner

Peter Zumthor and the County Museum of Art (LACMA) have revealed a revised design for the museum’s $650 million new home on Museum Row in Los Angeles. The new design still features the sinuous glass and grey concrete slab raised a full story off the ground, but under the new proposal part of the museum would bridge Wilshire Boulevard to touch down on what is currently a car park opposite.

The change comes in response to criticisms that the previous design would put the neighboring La Brea Tar Pits at risk, threatening their status as an active paleontological research site and a popular tourist destination. The shape of the new design removes this risk by withdrawing from the boundary with the adjacent tar pits, without compromising on floor space in the museum.

More on the revised design after the break

Project Meganom To Remodel Moscow’s Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

Courtesy of

Russian practice Project Meganom have won a competition to redesign the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. Their winning entry seeks to transform the museum complex into a hive of cultural activity, preserving the institution’s world class art collection whilst “actively engaging with the surrounding territory as a potential space for exhibition, dialogue, and communication.” The project focuses less on the provision of new areas but rather provides a single unified platform for a series of discordant parts, tying together all the elements of the environment into one cohesive design – “from buildings and monuments to benches and navigation.”

Has London’s British Museum Become a “Mall”?

The Great Court / Fosters + Partners. Image © janis.photo

“They’ve got the mall. They’ve got the food court. Now they’ve got the multiplex.” Rowan Moore’s latest piece for the Guardian discusses the collaged plight of London’s British Museum as Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) complete a large extension of exhibition spaces. Describing it as a “composite Foster-Rogers” building, Moore argues that “a strange distribution of space” coupled with “an inattention to the cultural complexities of the modern museum” have led to “a void, wrapped in a void, with another void to the side.” Although he states that “there are many things to like about RSHP’s building”, the total compilation of spaces, extensions and interventions have led to a museum more like a mall than a house of culture.

London Science Museum Announces Shortlist for New Galleries

© Flickr CC User Science Museum

The Science Museum in London has announced two shortlists of high-profile architects in its competitions to design new Mathematics and Medicine galleries. Due to open by 2018, the new will double the space inside the museum. Among the shortlisted practices are Zaha Hadid Architects, Amanda Levete Architects, Wilkinson Eyre and Caruso St John. Winners for both galleries are expected to be announced in early August.

Read on after the break for the full shortlists

The Dutch Royal Picture Gallery at The Hague to Reopen Following Extensive Renovation

Courtesy of Mauritshuis, The Hague. Image © Ronald Tilleman

The Mauritshuis, a Dutch 17th century city palace in The Hague, will reopen this week following a large scale renovation and extension designed by Hans van Heeswijk with servicing and fire engineering undertaken by . Similar to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, which reopened after a ten year restoration and remodelling in 2013, the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery exhibits one of the finest collections of Dutch Golden Age paintings including Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. Alongside a large scale renovation, Hans van Heeswijk have also extended the galleries with new spaces, an auditorium and educational spaces.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Sponsors New Danish Library Award

have been involved in a number of Library designs themselves, including the New Library at the University of Aberdeen. Image © Adam Mørk

The Danish Agency for Culture has unveiled a new award for Library architecture as part of its Model Programme for Public Libraries project, a programme in association with Realdania which aims to generate new ideas about how the of public libraries can change to meet the changing needs of today’s society.

The award, which will be announced at the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in Lyon, France, is sponsored by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects and has a prize of DKK 25,000.

More on the award, and how to enter, after the break