At the Obama Foundation Summit on Tuesday, the foundation unveiled the latest design for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, thinks the new refinements are a step in the right direction.
“The changes are most evident on the south-facing front of the building that faces toward an outdoor plaza,” said Kamin. “They included incisions, slices into the body of a stone-covered tower. That kind of creates a more interesting sculptural shape. And those occur both at the top and toward the middle and bottom.
“There also is a very tall window in the center of the south-facing façade that kind of cracks open the massive stone that wasn’t there before,” Kamin said. “So these things, I think, are improvements because they give the tower the right balance between monumentality and approachability. Between cool abstraction and warm approachability. This is what was lacking, you know, in previous versions.”
However, Kamin believes that this iteration should not be the final version from architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.
“My criticism to what’s been done at this point is that the north-facing facade of the tower is still pretty fortress-like,” Kamin said. “There are still large expanses of stone. It does not have that welcoming quality the southern facade does.”
“It clearly is striving to be an object, an icon, a new landmark for the South Side. And therefore, it really has to be perfect from every angle of the compass. I don’t think it’s there yet,” Kamin added. “I think that it still feels pretty heavy and not especially welcoming.”
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, which designed The 606 and Maggie Daley Park, will lead the center’s landscape architect team.
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