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Obama Center shows updated design for museum building in new renderings

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There images provide a first glimpse of the project’s public library and wetlands area

A new rendering of the Obama Presidential Center shows a trapezoidal stone tower with an angular facade and screened windows next to a plaza and lower buildings with landscaped rooftops.
As seen from opposite end of the center’s plaza, the redesigned museum building is less squat and more detailed than in previous plans.
Obama Foundation

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.

An aerial image of a stone tower in a park with trees, a large pond, a grassy lawn, and a playground. A row of taller buildings is visible in the distance.
The stone-clad museum building looms over the center’s athletic facility and children’s area (lower left), “great lawn,” and the bike and pedestrian promenade slated to replace Cornell Drive (lower right).
Obama Foundation

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.”

Groups of museum patrons sit in an outdoor cafe in a terrace surrounded by trees and prairie grasses. The outdoor space is carved out of a corner of a taller glass and stone building.
The museum building opens onto the center’s main plaza and a sunken garden level, connecting to an adjacent cafe and gift shop.
Obama Foundation
Children sit around a librarian in a large room with bookshelves, seating areas, an information desk, and oversized windows.
The first interior rendering of the center’s new Chicago Public Library branch.
Obama Center
An expansive playground winds through a wooded area with paths and colorful equipment.
The relocated children’s area features undulating terrain, meandering paths, and a variety of play equipment.
Obama Foundation
A landscaped area next to a pathway with a pond, stone pathways, and benches.
Located near the Jackson Park lagoon, the proposed wetland area will capture and treat stormwater and provide places to sit and play.
Obama Foundation
A map of the Obama Presidential Center that shows the new locations of the wetlands and children's area.
A revised Obama Presidential site plan reflecting the latest batch of changes.
Obama Foundation