Site prep can be seen progressing for the Obama Presidential Center, a three-building masterplan by The Obama Foundation now underway in Hyde Park. The project will occupy a portion of Jackson Park’s western edge, and will be oriented around a central plaza space that will accommodate planned events and public artwork. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Interactive Design Architects will serve are the architects involved in the building design, while Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, Site Design Group, and Living Habitats have overseen the landscape architecture.
The tallest of the structures is a 235-foot-tall tower with a stacked frustum massing. The structure has been enveloped in a tan stone cladding, while also integrating a glass window wall system, a unique metal screen with alphanumeric characters. As reported in an article by ABC7 Chicago, these characters spell out the following passage:
“You are America. Unconstrained by habit and convention. Unencumbered by what is, ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there is new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed. America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We The People.’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ ‘Yes We Can.’ That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.”
From a programming perspective, the tower will house a museum focused on the historical context of Barack Obama’s presidency, as well as the presidency itself. As noted in a request for artifacts from the center’s website, the exhibits will be oriented around the various issues helping to define that period of time, such as (but not limited to) climate change and environmentalism, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, disability rights, and military service members, veterans, and their families. Other artifacts will reflect the 44th president’s early years all the way up to his campaign. The tower will also be capped by a Sky Room with 360-degree views.
The second building will be an edifice known as The Forum, which will serve as a local community destination. Programming consists of an auditorium, a broadcast and recording studio, a meeting and activity space, and a restaurant.
Thirdly will be a new branch of the Chicago Library, with access to informational and vocational resources, play spaces and digitally interactive areas for children, and a rooftop garden area.
Both the second and third building, both low-rises compared to the towering museum building, will adapt a similar facade style. The landscape design, meanwhile, will take on an assemblage of outdoor play spaces, walking paths, a sledding hill, and a pedestrian promenade that links with the surrounding Jackson Park.
The final edifice on site will be a two-story garage, one of several transportation options that visitors and staff will find in the surrounding area. Visitors can board buses for Routes 2, 6, 15, and 28 at the adjacent S Stoney Island Avenue stop. Also within a 10-minute walking radius are additional stops for Routes 10, 55, 59, and 171. While no CTA L service can be found within reasonable walking distance, the Metra can be boarded at University of Chicago/59th Street station, a five-minute walk from the site’s northwest corner.
The total project will tally at $700 million dollars, with Turner Construction Company as the general contractor. As of now, only caisson permits have been issued, though the extent of site prep can be seen throughout the property. An opening date is expected for 2025.