Firms Hired for Obama Center, Renderings Released


An updated design for the Obama Presidential Center was released late last week, arriving on the heels of the announcement that a collective of diverse construction firms had been hired to take on the project.

The design, created by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects|Partners, with landscape architecture by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, was first introduced in May 2017. The complex will be located in Jackson Park, on Chicago’s South Side.

Complex Design

The 19.6-acre complex will be composed of six parts: a public plaza, an athletic center, a museum, a library, the Forum community and event building and a parking facility. The latter was initially proposed as an above-ground parking garage, but has since been relocated underground to the south of the library, due to community backlash.

The main cluster of buildings include the museum tower, the Forum and the library, and all would be connected by a basement level that would receive natural light through sunken openings, noted the Chicago Tribune.

The updated design also features a thinner museum tower which is also taller, shouldering its way from 178 feet tall to 235 feet tall. The tower will also feature outside walls that consist of screens of stone letters, with a window in the north facade and an increase in below-grade space.

As it stands, plans for the athletic center feature a low-slung, two-level rectangular building topped by a curving, free-form roof, housing space for basketball, dance and other sports, as well as community meeting and workout rooms. A glass facade located to the south would overlook an outdoor running track.

The Obama Foundation is also in talks to install a branch of the Chicago Public Library in the complex library building.

On top of this, the Forum building will also include a 300-seat auditorium, as well as a restaurant.  

Construction Firms

The $300 million contract for the construction of the complex was awarded to the Lakeside Alliance, which is composed of Powers & Sons Construction Co., Turner Construction Co., Brown & Momen, UJAMAA Construction and Safeway Construction Co, noted the Chicago Tribune.

The collective was formed more than two years ago to pursue the project, and was announced as one of four finalists in August 2017.

In hiring the collective, the Foundation sought to ensure that the endeavor benefitted local residents, with money involved staying close by. There was also a focus on diversity in the hiring process, as many of the businesses in the collective are owned by African Americans. This move was also a step away from the established trend of minority-owned businesses having a difficult time acquiring these large projects.

“We hope that this becomes a model, so that as this high-profile, significant project is developed and is successful, people can use it to show: ‘President Obama had this kind of diversity in his project, we should have it in ours,’” noted Foundation vice president for civic engagement Michael Strautmanis.

The Foundation will formally submit the updated design to the Chicago Planning Commission, in hopes to break ground by the end of the year, with the Center opening in 2021. The Presidential Center is anticipated to cost $500 million, all of which will be raised privately, but public money will most likely have to be used to accommodate road improvements to handle traffic shifts brought on by construction.


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Design build; North America; President Obama; Public spaces; Urban Planning

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