Obama Library in Chicago to be Designed by New York Team

The University of Chicago (Credit: Tom Rossiter)The University of Chicago (Credit: Tom Rossiter)

The Obama Library is one step closer to being realized.

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President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama announced Thursday that the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago will be designed by another husband-and-wife team—renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. 

The New York-based team has designed museums in Philadelphia and New York. Their last Chicago commission was the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, which opened in 2012. 

Below, hear Williams and Tsien talk about the Logan Center for the Arts.

Williams and Tsien were chosen to design the Obama Library from among seven potential candidates, including David Adjaye who served as lead designer of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Architectural Record magazine speculated that Adjaye was the frontrunner for the Obama Library. Another contender was Renzo Piano, architect of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing.

But the Obama Foundation selected the New York-based couple best known for designing the Barnes Foundation, an art museum that opened on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012. Their firm, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, will be joined by the Chicago firm Interactive Design Architects.

Still to be determined: whether the library site will be in Washington Park or Jackson Park. Either location would likely be within view of the 170-foot tall Logan Center for the Arts the couple designed on the south end of the University of Chicago campus. The Obama Presidential Center and Library is expected to open in 2021.

In a statement, the architects said: “It is a joy, an honor, and a responsibility to create a place that reflects the optimism and integrity of the President and the First Lady. This has been a transformative presidency and we will work to make a Center that embodies and expands the Obamas’ vision. We look forward to collaborating with our partners, Interactive Design Architects, and to working with the South Side community.”


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