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Architects Chosen for Obama's Presidential Library and Museum

July 07,2024 by Matthew Bell

New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien will design the the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Williams and Tsien had been considered front-runners for weeks, as word spread that they had been among the best presenters during a series of sessions at the White House with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The duo, who run a small studio on Manhattan’s Central Park South, are known for their beautifully crafted buildings, including the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, a museum so well-designed that it all but silenced critics of the Foundation’s move from its original suburban setting to a downtown site. They are also behind arts centers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of Chicago, the latter a short distance from the location of the planned Obama Presidential Center. Williams and Tsien are also working on an addition to the art museum at Dartmouth College and a U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

The architects were last in the news when their American Folk Art Museum in New York, a gem of a building on West 53rd Street, was torn down to make way for the planned expansion of the Museum of Modern Art. But the Obama commission is all the consolation they could hope for. The Obama Foundation has teamed Williams and Tsien with the Chicago firm Interactive Design Architects (IDEA), which collaborated as “architect of record” with Renzo Piano Building Workshop on the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Last year, the Obama Foundation issued a “request for qualifications” that elicited responses from 140 architecture firms. The foundation narrowed the list to seven , each of whom made presentations to the Obamas earlier this year. They included Adjaye Associates, headed by David Adjaye; Diller Scofido + Renfro; SHoP Architects; Snohetta; Renzo Piano Building Workshop; and John Ronan Architects (the only Chicago firm on the list). The foundation is now considering two sites on the South Side of Chicago for the structure.

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