New renderings of the upcoming Obama Presidential Center include a number of tweaks to the controversial $500 million South Side development. The Obama Foundation, the nonprofit behind the project, released the images as they prepare to host a summit in Chicago on Tuesday.
Among the most visible changes are revisions to the project’s museum building, which will tower 235 feet above the center’s proposed 20-acre campus in Jackson Park. The signature structure is now more detailed and less monolithic than the slab-sided iteration first revealed by New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in spring 2017.
The latest renderings show additional exterior facets, textures, and stacks of windows on the stone-clad building, which the Obama Foundation says was “inspired by the idea of four hands coming together.” A portion of the facade will be screened behind three-dimensional letters lifted from one of President Obama’s speeches.
The updated images also provide new glimpses of the center’s landscape plan, overseen by 606 Trail and Maggie Daley Park designer Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. The most notable changes here are a new, one-acre wetlands area north of the project’s underground parking garage and an expanded children’s play area moved closer to South Stony Island Avenue.
Conceived as more of a community center than a traditional repository of official documents, the Obama Presidential Center offers a campus of neighborhood amenities such as athletic facilities and a Chicago Public Library branch—the interior of which is shown for the first time in the latest renderings.
Despite scoring a significant victory after a judge dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the project’s construction, the Obama Presidential Center is still a work in progress, said its designers to Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin over the weekend.
Although the columnist was generally supportive of the changes, Kamin suggested that the revised treatment of the museum building’s south side should be extended to its northern elevation. And with an ongoing federal review expected to push groundbreaking back until at least 2020, Kamin stressed that there is “still time to get this hugely important project 100 percent right.”