Obama Library To Land in Jackson Park

John Hill
28. July 2016
Jackson Park site as described in the 2015 project RFQ (Image: Obama Foundation)
Following the last month's selection of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects as the lead architect for the Obama Presidential Center, The Obama Foundation is expected to choose Jackson Park as the project's site.
Since the beginning of Barack and Michelle Obama's search for an architect, two sites on Chicago's South Side donated by the city were considered: Jackson Park and Washington Park. Both are 19th-century parks designed by Olmsted and Vaux (connected by the Midway Plaisance), and both bookend the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. But Jackson Park has the advantage of being closer to Lake Michigan and train access from the Loop, and already being home to a strong cultural attraction: the Museum of Science and Industry. Yet the reasons for the selection will have to wait, since the news comes before a formal announcement by the Obama Foundation; the Chicago Tribune reported the site selection yesterday, citing sources.

The proposed three-block-long site is currently occupied by athletic fields that sit between two north-south streets. The site is about one mile directly east of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects' Logan Center for the Arts, one of the projects illustrated as a precedent in the selection of the New York-based architects (with local architects IDEA).

Although the legacy project for the Obama administration, which will come to an end in less than 180 days, has garnered criticism for taking historic parkland, the most vocal group that serves to protect the city's parks – Friends of the Parks – has come down in favor of the park sites, citing benefits to the surrounding African American community. This organization effectively squashed George Lucas's plans for building a museum on Chicago's lakefront near downtown through lawsuits.

The Obama Foundation is expected to announce the site selection next week, when this post will be amended as needed.

Update 29 July: Here is a link to the official announcement on the Obama Foundation website, which features quotes from the Foundation as well as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and South Side community leaders. A press conference will take place on 3 August at the nearby Museum of Science and Industry.

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