Obama Foundation Selects Architects

John Hill
30. June 2016
L-R: Charlie Young, IDEA; Dina Griffin, IDEA; Billie Tsien, TWBTA; Tod Williams, TWBTA; Bob Larsen, IDEA; Paul Schulhof, TWBTA (Photo courtesy of Obama Foundation)

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA), with local architecture firm Interactive Design Architects (IDEA), have been selected by the Obama Foundation to design the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Chicago.

In a statement from the Obama Foundation, "TWBTA stood out in their commitment to explore the best ways of creating an innovative center for action that inspires communities and individuals to take on our biggest challenges." Further, "IDEA brings local knowledge and a track record for delivering excellence to large, complex civic projects."

TWBTA is certainly familiar with Hyde Park, the Chicago neighborhood where the OPC will be located; the firm completed the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus in 2012. Although it's not clear which site the OPC will choose – it will be located in Washington Park or Jackson Park – in either case the building will be less than a mile from the Logan Center. 

The full statement from TWBTA, via the Obama Foundation website:

We believe that architecture is the coming together of art and use, and can bring a sense of grace to life. The greatest buildings are places, which contribute to more than their particular task by elevating and improving the world.

We are deeply moved by the mission of the Obama Foundation and the role the Center can play in empowering that mission. 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.

We have chosen to work on only a few projects at a time, to allow for intense personal involvement in all aspects of 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 done well.

TWBTA: Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, Chicago (Photo: Tom Rossiter)

The full statement from IDEA, also per the Obama Foundation website:

To build positive, lasting relationships, we know that we must begin with understanding. Years of experience and hundreds of projects have confirmed that the path to success hinges not only on the design process, but on thoughtful listening and patient attention to the demands and nuances of a community and their culture. For us, collaboration is an opportunity: to create, to learn, to interact with other thought leaders in our profession.

It’s a remarkable opportunity to work with the Obama Foundation and to partner with TWBTA on the design for the Obama Presidential Center. To play a role in a project that will have such a transformative impact on the community and the wider world is a dream come true.

TWBTA: The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (Photo: Michael Moran)

TWBTA were one of seven finalist firms in the running for the Obama Presidential Center, as selected by the Obama Foundation in December 2015. The other firms were Adjaye Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, John Ronan Architects, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, SHoP Architects, and Snøhetta.

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