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Obama Foundation announces list of landscape architects for Chicago library

The prestigious Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will lead the presidential library’s landscape design

Aerial view of Jackson Park on a sunny day in Chicago.
An aerial view of Jackson Park
Curbed Chicago Flickr pool/Eric Allix Rogers

This morning, the Obama Foundation announced the team of landscape architects that will help shape the grounds surrounding the library and museum in Jackson Park. According to the announcement, the New York-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will serve as the lead designer while Chicago’s Site Design Group and Living Habitats will act as design partners.

In the press release, Michael Van Valkenburgh described the project as “historic” and suggested that the team of landscape designers will be sensitive to the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted, the original landscape architect of Jackson Park.

“Together with Site Design Group and Living Habitats and, of course, with TWBTA [Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects] and InterActive Design, we are committed to creating an OPC that honors the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted and at the same time is accessible, inspirational and joyful,” Van Valkenburgh stated.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has worked on a number of high-profile projects in Chicago in recent years, including acting as the lead designer for Maggie Daley Park, The 606 trail, and a new Streeterville park at the base of the under-construction One Bennett Park high-rise.

MVVA’s design for the new Bennett Park in Streeterville
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates/Related Midwest

The firm is known for crafting public spaces that feature various themes and whimsical elements. The 606, Maggie Daley Park, and the upcoming Bennett Park in Streeterville all have a number of different spaces within each park that allow for different experiences and forms of recreation. And if the Obama Foundation gets its way, a couple of major roads that cut through Jackson Park could be closed to provide a more uniform and pedestrian-friendly experience.

Slowly but surely, the Obama Foundation is moving ahead with the upcoming Obama Presidential Center for the Woodlawn community on Chicago’s South Side, and now that the building and landscape design teams have been locked in, the city’s residents will anxiously wait to get a first look at the proposed design of the complex.