Here's One Early Proposal For Obama's Presidential Library In Chicago

Obama's nearing the end of his second term, which means talk is turning towards where he'll be setting up camp post-presidency. The location of his presidential library is being hotly contested, with Chicago, New York City, and Honolulu all vying for the prize. Here's one proposal for locating it in Bronzeville, Chicago's first African-American neighborhood.

The Barack Obama Foundation issued a request for proposals earlier this year, receiving 13 bids from architectural firms. (It looks like they're only focused on U.S. ideas—already one proposal from a Kenyan university to locate it in Nariobi, has been denied by the foundation). Architecture firm HOK produced not only a detailed architectural bid but a larger strategy for where to site the library in Chicago as a way to bring the community-based, grassroots focus of the Obama campaign to life.


For the location, HOK chose Bronzeville, a historic neighborhood on Chicago's South Side which is widely considered to be the city's original African-American community. The neighborhood has historically been seen as a center of black art and literary culture—it was the home of Louis Armstrong, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright—and much like the neighborhood it's compared to, Harlem, is also undergoing a renaissance. (Harlem, of course, also wants a piece of the Obama Library action). The library could also act as a new center to help bolster this revitalization and boost economic development.

In addition to the library itself, the designers envision an elevated park that would connect the campus to Lake Michigan, directly to the east. This would not only create a greenbelt of sorts connecting the city to Burnham Park along the water, it could potentially host research centers for urban farming and other environmental topics.


While the locations of presidential libraries are often fairly obvious—both Bushes chose Texas for theirs, Clinton picked Arkansas—Obama's geographically diverse provenance does offer up some interesting debate about where such a library will be most appropriate. In addition to this Bronzeville bid, there are bids for the aforementioned West Harlem, four other locations on the South Side of Chicago (like this one), and an oceanfront property in Honolulu. While the actual vision and mission of the library has not yet been determined, here's an interesting twist: Obama's "holdings" will take up far less space than his predecessors, thanks to the fact that many of his records and papers have been digitized. So he has more room to play with when it comes to the public areas and programming of the space.

The foundation is expected to announce a shortlist of architectural firms selected to move forward in the process later this summer.


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