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A look at John Ronan Architect’s bid for the Obama Library

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The Chicago firm’s O-shaped layout lost to a yet-to-be-revealed plan from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects


John Ronan Architects have released new renderings of their bid for Chicago’s upcoming Obama Presidential Center despite losing out to New York’s Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA) earlier this year. The only Chicago-based firm among the seven finalists chosen to design the south side facility, Ronan and company went through a number of massing studies before arriving on a series of “rotated ellipses” resembling a giant ‘O.’

Hovering like a glassy donut on stilts above Jackson Park, Ronan’s unchosen design would have maximize surrounding green space, similar to MAD’s vision for the Lucas Museum in LA’s Exposition Park. The layout was also conceived to optimize views of Chicago and Lake Michigan as well as Jackson Park’s adjacent lagoon and Frederick Law Olmsted's historic Wooded Island dating back to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

In addition to providing a home for a museum dedicated to the legacy of the 44th President of the United States, Ronan’s Obama Library was also envisioned as a community asset offering a variety of programming in both its column-free interiors and a new indoor/outdoor theatre. The plan includes dedicated dining and event spaces as well as an athletic facility featuring a basketball court, dance studio, and martial arts area.

An overhead rendering of the site shows ramps leading to a below grade parking garage and the elimination of Jackson Park’s running track and hockey fields. The six-lane thoroughfare known as South Cornell Drive is also disrupted between Midway Plaisance and Hayes Drive/63rd Street. It’s unknown if the winning design from TWBTA plans a similar layout with regards to the building’s integration with its immediate surroundings.

Update: At the request of the architect, Curbed has removed the images of the proposal from this post. The full proposal can be viewed on John Ronan Architects’ website.

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