The Associated Press has reported that Barack Obama's presidential library will be in his adopted hometown of Chicago. After months of speculation that the 44th President of the United States might site his legacy project in New York City—where he attended Columbia University—or his birth city of Honolulu, Hawaii, multiple unnamed sources cited by the AP and other publications say Obama and his nonprofit foundation have settled on Chicago, where he forged his political career. The University of Chicago, where Obama taught law, will host the library and museum. No architect has yet been named. The project is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, likely spurring more development on Chicago's South Side. As the city from which Obama was first elected to public office and in 2008 first addressed the nation as its first African-American president-elect, Chicago was seen by many as an obvious choice. But in the long lead-up to the decision—made longer by the protracted race for Chicago mayor, which saw former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel spend millions of dollars to fend off an unexpected political challenger from the left—sources close to the president's foundation had raised concerns about the proposals from several universities around the city. The University of Chicago's winning bid benefitted from having friends in high places. Emanuel led the charge in Chicago City Council to cede public park land to the private library project, successfully lobbying for the same assurance from the state legislature. That move remains controversial, however, and the design team selected to realize the president's legacy of public service will have to contend with opposition from open space advocates in Obama's own backyard.
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The Chicago Architectural Club announced the winners of its 2014 Chicago Prize Tuesday, awarding five honors to speculative proposals for Barack Obama’s Presidential Library. Peace signs, notions of community ownership, and even drones enlivened the conceptual debate swirling around a closely watched project already wrought with its own political complications. Organizers said during a public unveiling Tuesday evening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation that they had received 103 submissions. Entrants were asked to sketch up concepts for the library on a site at the confluence of the Chicago River—one which is already home to a 53-story tower by Goettsch Partners, currently under construction. When CAC announced the topic in November, several potential library sites for the actual library had already been identified. Their locations—in and around the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Chicago campuses—exacerbated frictions between public space advocates, community residents and local politicians who would later agree to commit acres of Washington Park to the library developers. “We felt that this debate did not take place in public,” said Martin Klaschen, CAC's co-president, obliquely addressing why the competition chose the subject it did. “It's a political step that we intended not to interfere with the discussions of the other sites, and basically brought one more site into the debate.” In 2012 the prize touched on another hot topic: the imminent demolition of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital. Despite the neutral site, winning proposals provoked debate on some political issues. One submission, Obama Drone Aviary from Craig Reschke and Ann Lui, earned a “dishonorable mention,” CAC officials joked, for its wry proposal to make Obama's the first drone-driven library in presidential history. Though it presented the concept with a straight-faced optimism, Klaschen said, the subject matter belies a critique of Obama's legacy as the face of a growing surveillance apparatus and military-industrial complex. (Lui has contributed work to AN.) Two winners were named: The design team of Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang for their ring-shaped library (seen at the top of this page) and museum crossing the Chicago River; and Aras Burak Sen for a spherical enclosure containing a “Bridge of Hope.” Honorable mentions went to two projects in addition to the drone aviary: Drew Cowdrey and Trey Kirk; and Dániel Palotai. Cowdrey and Kirk proposed “a mobile library” of portable galleries and collections that could be loaned for tours and community exhibitions, housed in a Miesian “crate” on the downtown site. “As the production of architectural narrative intervenes and conditions the visitor’s experience, we have chosen to liberate the archival core from its vernacular wrapper—recasting it as a naked and autonomous urban figure,” reads their proposal brief. Palotai's black-and-white proposal outlined an elegant series of spaces “between sky and ground” intended to speak of flexibility, personal interactions and community authorship of what could start as a series of blank canvases. SOM donated the prize money, a total of $3,250. The jurors were: Elva Rubio, Stanley Tigerman, Brian Lee of SOM, Andy Metter of Epstein, Geoffery Goldberg, and Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns. Chicago Architectural Club has details, full proposal PDFs, and a video of the awards ceremony on their website.
While speculation around the Barack Obama Presidential Library continues to swirl, plans for one of the project's four potential sites just became a bit clearer. The University of Chicago, where the President taught law, made public this week new renderings and details of their bid for the nation's 14th such library, trotting out sunny images that show the economic development potential of investment in the South Side areas surrounding Washington Park. The University of Chicago is among four finalists selected to vie for the library, whose governing nonprofit is expected to deliver a decision later this year. (Hawaii, New York City, and the University of Illinois Chicago also submitted proposals in December.) They proposed two sites, according to the Chicago Tribune: one in western Jackson Park, bounded by South Stony Island Avenue to the west, South Cornell Avenue to the east, East 60th Street to the north and East 63rd Street to the south; the other in western Washington Park and 11 acres outside of it, stretching as far west as South Prairie Avenue, and encompassing the Garfield Green Line stop. Both areas include land not owned by the University, which an anonymous source close to the deliberations previously told the Tribune could make the committee “hesitant to commit” to the plans. The sites each measure in excess of 20 acres, but only a fraction of that is slated for the library itself and accompanying structures. Nonetheless some open space advocates have accused the proposal of cannibalizing park land. Charles A. Birnbaum, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post lamenting, “we still have to deal with retrograde thinking that views parks as dumping grounds and places to put 'stuff.'” Washington Park, which borders the University of Chicago's Hyde Park campus, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, the designers of New York City's Central Park. But Susan Sher, who is leading the the University of Chicago's library bid, told the Tribune's Melissa Harris it's common for such projects to include existing park space. “When you look at the possibilities and the criteria of having enough space for the legacy of a major historical figure, you can't just plop it in the middle of a shopping center,” she said. The University's hometown competitor, UIC, proposed a park that would bridge the Eisenhower Expressway, as well as economic development and community resources for underserved West Side areas. While UIC's proposal is more straightforward in its ownership, it also faces obstacles. Illinois' new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, is expected to appoint a new chancellor of the public university system, which could sow uncertainty about the institution's library plans. Despite the new images and site boundaries, plans for the hotly anticipated library project remain unclear. In addition to selecting a host institution, the library foundation committee will also need to hire an architect, who will ultimately decide on the library's form and exact location. The plans newly made public by the University of Chicago are scant on details for that reason, although they do allude to an "education corridor" along 63rd Street, and a "cultural ribbon" that would connect Washington Park with a "renewed Jackson Park."
Architects deliver a North American first with Warren Woods Ecology Field Station.When Belfast, Maine–based architecture firm GO Logic presented the University of Chicago's Department of Ecology and Evolution with three schematic designs for the new Warren Woods Ecology Field Station, the academics decided to go for broke. Despite being new to Passive House building, the university was attracted to the sustainability standard given the laboratory's remote location in Berrien County, Michigan. "We presented them with three design options: one more compact, one more aggressive formally," recalled project architect Timothy Lock. The third option had an even more complicated form, one that would make Passive House certification difficult. "They said: 'We want the third one—and we want you to get it certified,'" said Lock. "We had our work cut out for us." Thanks in no small part to an envelope comprising a cedar rain screen, fully integrated insulation system, and high performance glazing, GO Logic succeeded in meeting the aesthetic and environmental goals set down by the university, with the result that the Warren Woods facility is the first Passive House–certified laboratory in North America. Warren Woods' envelope begins at ground level, with a shallow foundation utilizing GO Logic's patented L-shaped EPS insulation around the edges, and a continuous air-seal layer between the foam and the slab. "The system allows us to pour consistent slab-on-grade without any thermal bridging," explained Lock. The sealing layer connects into the wood stud wall backed by graphite-impregnated Neopor insulation. The architects chose the insulation for its high R-value, knowing that they would need to compensate for the relatively large amount of surface area dedicated to the exterior wall. Pro clima one-way breathable building paper allows the building to expel moisture. GO Logic installed a rain screen of Eastern White Cedar vertical gap siding sourced from the Upper Peninsula "because of the aesthetic goals of the client," said Lock. "They desired a contemporary aesthetic but also [the look of] a Midwestern barn." The architects planned the interior space and allotted glazing judiciously, locating the laboratory on the north side of the building. Its position, under the cantilever over the entry, maximally reduces solar gain—an important consideration given the heat generated by the equipment inside. The classroom space, on the other hand, is positioned on the building's south side, punctuated by a long strip of Kneer-Südfenster glazing. "We are highly critical of windows that are available domestically," said Lock. "The big drawback with North American windows is that the tradeoff for a higher R-value is significantly reduced solar heat gain." Instead, the firm imports Kneer-Süd's products directly from Germany. "In Northern Europe they know how to get all the heat from the sun that they can," he observed. "We also love the way they look." The windows and doors are fully integrated into the air-seal layer using one-way breathable tapes from SIGA, imported (like the pro clima paper) through 475 High Performance Building Supply in Brooklyn. A custom-fabricated stainless steel accordion screen shields the classroom-side glazing from both intruders and the sun. "It's good for security—the university likes that," said Lock. "But the screen was also big for us to control the amount of heat that enters during the summer months and shoulder seasons." The idea, he explained, is that when classes are in session and the weather is nice, the occupants can throw open the doors. When only the laboratory is in operation, the closed screen will cut back on heat gain. In addition, the steel mesh "became something that was also a really exciting design feature," said Lock. "It had a great effect—not just cooling the space, but also softening the natural light."
As several Chicago sites—as well as institutions in New York City and Hawaii—vie to host Barack Obama's Presidential Library, the Chicago Architectural Club is “calling for speculative proposals” to consider the design impacts of the nation's 14th presidential library. Submissions are due January 10, one month after official contenders for the library have to submit their proposals to The Barack Obama Foundation. Winners will be announced February 3 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 South Michigan Avenue. First prize nets $1,500, while second takes $1,000 and third gets $750. The Architectural Club and CAF will exhibit the winning projects on their websites. Jurors for the award include Andy Metter (Epstein), Brian Lee (SOM), Dan Wheeler (Wheeler Kearns Architects), Elva Rubio (Gensler), Geoffrey Goldberg, (G. Goldberg + Associates) and John Ronan (John Ronan Architects). More information on submission protocol is available on the Chicago Architectural Club's website AN's editorial page has called for the library to catalyze the development of public space wherever it ends up, and the speculative designs offered by the Club's annual Chicago Prize are sure to spur good conversation on that topic. The competition literature identifies the site as the rail yard at the southwest corner of the Chicago River confluence—a site already devoted to Goettsch Partners' River Point development, currently under construction. In library news more likely to materialize as built work, the University of Chicago is mulling Jackson Park as a potential site. The Hyde Park university where Obama taught law is also reportedly considering an empty lot at Garfield Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive, the South Shore Cultural Center, and an area of Jackson Park across from Hyde Park Academy High School at Cornell Avenue and Hayes Drive, according to DNAinfo Chicago.
And then there were four. The committee in charge of picking a site for President Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum narrowed the playing field to four illustrious institutions of higher learning, with two in Chicago. The University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii have until December 11 to submit their bids, just in time to kick back and sip some eggnog while the president gears up for his last two years in office.
Obama library round-up: Woodlawn, Lakeside, Bronzeville and more vying for nation’s 14th presidential library
Speculation over the future site of President Barack Obama’s presidential library has picked up as a slew of Chicago sites—as well as some in New York, Hawaii, and even Kenya—made the June deadline for proposals. Ultimately the decision is up to the President and the board tasked with developing what will be the nation’s 14th presidential library, but dozens of groups are attempting to tug at that group's ears. (Even I used AN's June editorial page to consider the library's urban impact.) Here’s a round-up of some of the Chicago proposals made public so far. 63rd Street New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio released its plan for the library in January, proposing a campus stretched out along three blocks of 63rd Street in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. They’re “highly conceptual” designs, as are most floated so far, but the plan calls for a campus centered around a ring-shaped building and extending several blocks. The development would make use of dozens of vacant lots in a struggling neighborhood adjacent to the University of Chicago. Bronzeville There’s a concerted effort to bring Obama’s library to Bronzeville, the South Side neighborhood and “black metropolis” vying to become a national heritage area. One prominent site there is the area once home to the Michael Reese Hospital. Combined with parking lots on the other side of South Lake Shore Drive, the site would total 90 acres of lakefront property. It’s been targeted for other large developments, including a casino, a data center and housing for Olympic athletes during Chicago’s failed 2016 bid. A few years ago SOM led a team of designers and developers tasked with sizing up the site for redevelopment, and you can read their plans here. HOK recently floated a plan for redevelopment of the Michael Reese site, including a rendering (at top) of the proposed library. Lakeside McCaffery Interests and U.S. Steel teamed up to rehabilitate that industrial giant’s nearly 600-acre lake infill site in the neighborhood of South Chicago. It’s the largest undeveloped site in the city. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet first reported last week that McCaffery threw his hat in the ring for Obama's library. Renderings from SOM, Lakeside’s lead design firm, show a heavy walkway that twists elegantly upward around a glass box, jutting over Lake Michigan that appears here as if it were the world’s largest reflecting pool. Chicago State University Down the road from Lakeside, Chicago State University is also a potential site. It's situated in Roseland, where Obama worked as a community organizer. For the Huffington Post, Hermene Hartman argued CSU is the best place for the library, because it would have the greatest neighborhood impact. University of Chicago The U of C called the library "an historic opportunity for our community," and—to no one's surprise—submitted a proposal to bring Obama's legacy back to where he taught law. They set up a website for the bid, but no images or details are publicly available at this time. University of Illinois Chicago U of I is among the institutions of higher education vying for the library, and it has proposed three plans on the West Side: a 23-acre site in North Lawndale; an “academic” option at UIC-Halsted; and a “medical” option at the Illinois Medical District, which is also home to another long-vacant white elephant—the Cook County Hospital building. McCormick Place As reported by Ted Cox for DNAinfo Chicago, Ward Miller, president of Preservation Chicago, thinks the library could revitalize the underused Lakeside Center East Building at McCormick Place, the massive convention center on Chicago’s near South Side. Miller previously proposed that the building be considered for George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art.
After President Barack Obama leaves office, he’s expected to announce the location of a Presidential Library in his name. Its location has been a topic of debate for some time already, years ahead of Obama’s return to civilian life in 2017. His birthplace, Hawaii, has made a push, as has New York’s Columbia University, where Obama got his undergraduate degree in political science. Chicago, the President’s adopted hometown, is a natural frontrunner in the preemptive race, as it’s where Obama made most of his political ties and first launched his career in public service. Michael Sorkin said as much in a column for The Nation:
Chicago is clearly to be preferred. Not simply is it the city where the Obamas will presumably live post-presidency, but it is where Obama made his first deep contributions in public service and the place to which he returned to begin and advance his political mission. More, the neighborhoods bruited as choices in Chicago (half a dozen have appeared on one list or another) might all strongly benefit from the injection of institutional activity and investment.That column ended up in a proposal from Sorkin’s studio that positioned the library in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, where several large vacant sites along 63rd Street lie waiting. Just to the north is the University of Chicago, where Obama taught law. Woodlawn’s relationship with its wealthy neighbor, the University of Chicago, is famously strained. While the most contentious days of that story may be in the past, Woodlawn suffers from the same entanglement of poverty, segregation, and violence that snarls many South Side communities. As Curbed editor Sarah Cox noted, a high-profile development like the Obama Presidential Library could be a shot in the arm:
@Cementley I'm really pulling for Woodlawn now. This could be huge for the South Side. — Sarah F Cox (@xoxoCox) January 9, 2014Sorkin’s proposal attempts to address this with “the revival of Woodlawn’s main street,” 63rd Street, between Ellis and Woodlawn avenues—a three block stretch of vacant lots just steps from a Metra stop:
The Obama library has the opportunity to become a genuinely local player and to contribute to the improvement of everyday life for the neighborhoods that surround it. This will require a physical and social architecture that is supportive, not aggressive or standoffish. It offers the chance to build a model environment.It would be "the first Presidential Center to be truly urban," the proposal says. Sorkin told AN his studio drew up the proposal in preparation for a National Design Award reception at the White House. He said he handed the brochure to Michelle Obama. But it’s not the only South Side site that has drawn attention. Paula Robinson, president of Bronzeville's Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission, recently argued in the Chicago Tribune that Obama’s presidential library should land in the Michael Reese Hospital site. View the proposal, which Michael Sorkin Studio describes in the text as “highly conceptual plans,” here: MSS_Obama Library proposal
Studio Gang Architects are familiar with theatrical spaces, and with the rhythms of the natural world; their design for Writers Theatre in north suburban Chicago reaches out to nature with timber trusses and a raised promenade through the trees. But a new project may take those interests one step further. SGA announced Wednesday they will collaborate with Thodos Dance Chicago on a project "investigating the intersection of dance, architecture, and physics.” Working with University of Chicago physicist Sidney Nagel and his lab group, Gang’s interactive structure will draw inspiration from “jamming” — the research process of studying disordered materials. The world premiere dance performance will also explore the overlap of physics, dance, and architecture. As yet untitled, the work will debut as part of Thodos’ Winter Concert 2014 on Saturday Feb. 22, 2014 at 8 p.m. at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, IL. Tickets are available at northshorecenter.org.
Chicago’s Loyola University has wasted no time, it seems, in taking advantage of low interest loans in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The school has spent more than $500 million on building projects since 2008, reported Crain’s Chicago Business. At No. 106 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 ranking of national universities, Loyola could stand to improve its public profile. Though it gained 13 places since last year’s ranking, the school lags nearby Northwestern (12th) and the University of Chicago (4th) considerably. The expansion includes new buildings at both the medical campus in suburban Maywood, IL. (here's AN's coverage of a sleek new home for the university's nursing school) and in Chicago’s Rogers Park, where a $58.8 million Institute of Environmental Sustainability opens this month. Read the full Crain's report here.
American Standard Movement Smart Museum of Art University of Chicago 5550 South Greenwood Avenue, Chicago Through October 6 Valerie Snobeck reuses left over construction materials from a project on the University of Chicago campus in her exhibition American Standard Movement, which is showing at the Smart Museum of Art’s courtyard. In doing so, her work presents questions of art, materiality, temporality, and significance. The exhibition displays a net tacked up against a wall and adorned with markings derived from repair tools that measure the small inner parts of watches. The function of netting is twofold: to catch the construction’s falling dust and debris and to serve as a visible indicator of the construction site and its parameters. Netting acts as a temporary stand-in for a wall during construction, but, due to its malleable nature and woven fabric, is physically unlike a wall. Snobeck’s net is not being used in its typical function, but is not necessarily functionless. She asks viewers to consider what is behind netting and what is being built or rebuilt. American Standard Movement proposes a connection between the body and space measured in parts. The piece questions efforts to dictate the future in physical and speculative ways.
The University of Chicago’s ongoing development is a balancing act of preserving its collegiate gothic badge of architectural honor and making bold contemporary bounds ahead. One project that maintains that equilibrium with grace is Ann Beha Architect’s conversion of the University’s old Theological Seminary into a new economics building. The area surrounding the site at 58th and University is on the preservation watch list, so the new steel-and-glass research pavilion along Woodlawn Avenue is likely to ruffle a few feathers. But most of the work treads lightly on the site. Glass infill will create a new entryway between the seminary building’s two main wings. While historic facades remain throughout much of the building, designers hope a new staircase will improve vertical circulation. And a 90-seat classroom anchors an expansion below grade that improves access to existing space, drawing in light from openings to a new loggia above. Placed atop a terra cotta base, the modern addition jives tastefully with the former seminary.