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Obama Library Design Contest Features 'Plan O' & Drone Aviary

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The "Plan O" concept from Dr. Zhu Wenyi's winning team would encircle Wolf Point with an 800-foot diameter ring. Photo courtesy Chicago Architectural Club and Chicago Architecture Foundation

Last night at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, five speculative plans for a future Obama Presidential Library were unveiled that suggest perhaps we're not being bold enough, that the standard idea of a library is a bit too confining for this kind of monumental project. Created as part of the Chicago Architectural Club's 2014 Chicago Prize competition, which sought designs for a site at the confluence of the Chicago River across the way from Wolf Point were the new River Point tower is being built, these visions were all winners or honorable mentions in a field that drew 104 entries from architects around the world. From a massive, O-shaped ring that creates a pedestrian bridge across the river to a spherical, multi-level tower and a drone aviary, the designs weren't meant to add another Chicago entry to a contentious bid process, but rather kickstart debates about the process and the potential of the Obama Presidential Library.


The jury, which included Stanley Tigerman, awarded $1,500 prizes to each winner. Chicago Architectural Club co-president Martin Klaschen said the aim was to provide a public contrast to the behind-closed-doors process currently underway, and "rethink the typology" of what a library could be. "Are these museums, libraries or a hybrid, something different that can carry on the legacy of the president?"

Winner: Zhu Wenyi
"There's Plan A and Plan B," says architect Dr. Zhu Wenyi, leader of the team that produced the winning Chinese entry. "So what about Plan O?" His team's design, a massive 800-foot-diameter ring that encircles the riverfront around Wolf Point and links together each bank, represents the"scale and size" of a great president. The six lanes of his life are represented with different sections of the interior, and the view of the river from a hybrid pedestrian area presents a new concept of multi-dimensional space. Chicago Architectural Club co-president Carl Ray Miller called it a "powerful urban gesture." (Wonder what a "W"-shaped Dubya library would have looked like?)

Winner: Aras Burak Sen
A little less imposing than the other massive white structure proposed for the Chicago lakefront, this contest co-winner was the most "monumental" of the entries, a white sphere that looks like a sentry across the river. The multi-level interior contains a series of bridges that symbolize different aspects of the Obama presidency.

Honorable Mention: Ann Lui and Craig Reschke
The most edgy (and potentially satirical) entry was this "drone aviary" concept, which turned the Wolf Point field into a hive for drones that would transport the Obama legacy around Chicago. For a President routinely chastised for his use of unmanned aircraft, this concept was selected for being both "distinguished" and "disturbing," accoring to Miller.

Honorable Mention: Drew Cowdrey and Trey Kirk
While the duo's main structure was complimented for it's Miesian facade by the judges, the real standout feature of their entry was the mobile component. A series of mobile trucks, emblazoned with phrases like "Hope," would be dispatched across the city, adding an outreach component to the archives.

Honorable Mention: Dániel Palotai
The Turkish architect's sleek, rectangular structure offered visions of the landscape and an accessible public square.

·New Contest Seeks Obama Library Proposals for River Corridor [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Obama Library coverage [Curbed Chicago]