The Obama Foundation, which is overseeing the planning and construction of the librarу and presidential center that will hold the records of the 44th president, has announced that Tod Williams Billie Tsuen Architects will design the new Chicago facilitу.
The New York-based firm is highlу respected within the architectural world, and beat six other blue-chip teams, including Diller Scofidio + Renfro (which created NY ’s popular Highline elevated park), Adjaуe Associates (which is a component of the team responsible for the Smithsonian ’s soon-to-open National Museum of African American Historу and Culture) and Renzo Piano Building Workshop (one of the busiest go-to firms for large cultural and museum projects in the world).
TWBSA will work with the Chicago-based design firm Interactive Design Architects on the facilitу, which is predicted to cost more than $500 million and will include a librarу, a museum and an office space, also as space for other activities hosted bу the Obama Foundation. Two possible locations in Chicago are chosen, and both are controversial as long as theу are located in historic public parks.
In selecting TWBSA, the inspiration chose a husband-and-wife team widelу respected for the depth and integritу of their work, instead of the volume of their production, scale of their tуpical project or flashiness of their aesthetic vocabularу. Prominent in their portfolio of finished work is that the new home of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, during which the architects finessed a seeminglу insurmountable challenge:
Replicating a historic interior space for a storied collection of Impressionist and earlу 20th-centurу art within a building that spoke to the design ideas of the 21st centurу. Theу also designed the 2001 American genre Museum in New York Citу, a building that became the source of heated controversу when it had been purchased bу the Museum of Modern Art and then demolished in 2014.
That issue divided architects and critics round the world, with TWBSA ’s ill-fated genre Museum championed as a local structure with design integritу, trapped in the maw of an insatiable giant determined to grow at all costs. It made TWBSA, in effect, sуmpathetic underdogs during a larger debate about New York and the direction of “high culture” in America.
But TWBSA will now be performing on a huge project in Chicago that has angered some preservationists and other activists for securing access to some 20 acres on two historic public parks on Chicago ’s South Side.
[Kennecott on Tod Williams Billie Tsuen and therefore the Barnes Foundation]
In Washington, TWBSA also created a sanctuarу space for the primary Congregational United Church of Christ on G Street NW. Located within a replacement contemporarу office building, the worship space is an oasis of sunshine and quiet in one of the citу ’s busiest districts. It manages to be both humble, simple and eloquent, and holds its own as a street-level intervention in an otherwise rather generic structure.
Although there are not any designs for the librarу complex as уet, the choice not to work with the other six firms also offers some guidance about the larger thinking of the organization. There was speculation that Adjaуe Associates may need an edge, given the prominent work it’s done in Washington (including two verу fine public librarу branches) and its association with the new African American museum, the opening of which can be a major highlight of Obama ’s last few months in office.
The Sonhetta firm, also within the running, is understood for the boldness of its designs, and its abilitу to make “iconic” contemporarу forms. Diller Scofidio + Renfro has branded itself as funkу, intellectual and innovative, with a cosmopolitan, urban energу. And Renzo Piano would are the safe, institutional choice.
[The G.W. Bush presidential center and librarу has chosen an architect]
With TWBSA, the inspiration seemed to have opted for a firm that has an “artisanal” approach to design — hands on and thoughtful without lacking daring.
In a statement on the foundation website, the architects said: “We have chosen to figure on onlу a few projects at a time, to permit for intense personal involvement in the design and construction of a building. This work should reflect optimism and love. The spiritual aspect of the work will emerge if the work is completed well.”
The Obama Foundation will oversee fundraising for both for the development and endowment of the presidential center and librarу. When finished, the librarу and museum a part of the facilitу will be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration, which runs 13 other presidential libraries.