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One Illinois Architect Is In The Running To Design Obama Library


Only one Illinois architect is among the seven architects asked to prepare a design proposal for the Obama Presidential Center on the south side of Chicago.

Projects by John Ronan Architects of Chicago include the award-winning Gary Comer Youth Center and the Poetry Foundation, both in Chicago, and the Illinois Institute of Technology Innovation Center.

There also are four New York City firms and one each from London, England, and Genova, Italy.

The Barack Obama Foundation released the names of the finalists Monday morning.

The Obama Foundation and its advisers reviewed submissions by firms that provided qualifications earlier this year then made recommendations to the President and First Lady.

“The Foundation received submissions from an impressive list of architects with a range of styles, expertise, and experience,” said Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Obama Foundation. “These finalists offer a variety of backgrounds and styles, and any one of them would be an excellent choice.

"We are excited to see this process moving forward, because the Obama Presidential Center will be so much more than a library: This facility will seek to inspire citizens across the globe to better their communities, their countries, and their world.”

Responses from the finalists will be submitted during the first quarter of 2016. The Foundation emphasized that this process is not a design competition, but it does require defined, visual creative ideas for both the proposed sites in Jackson Park and Washington Park.

The selected architectural firm will design the Obama Presidential Center, which will include a library for the Presidential archives and a museum of the Obama Presidency and issues of our time.


The following firms have been selected to submit their proposals to the Obama Foundation:

Adjaye Associates, London, England

Adjaye Associates was founded by David Adjaye in 2000. Based in London with a U.S. office in New York, the firm has worked on projects across four continents. Notable works include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, currently under construction in Washington, D.C. Adjaye is also designing the expansion of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Adjaye was awarded the Wall Street Journal Innovator Award in 2013. The Art Institute of Chicago is currently running a mid-career retrospective of Adjaye’s work.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York, NY

Diller Scofidio + Renfro is led by three partners – Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro. The firm’s portfolio includes a wide range of major institutional projects including the recently awarded design of the David M. Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago, the renovation of Lincoln Center in New York, and the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. The firm also designed the High Line in New York City. Diller and Scofidio, the firm's founding principals, were awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellowship in 1999.

John Ronan Architects, Chicago, Illinois

John Ronan founded his Chicago-based firm in 1999. He has designed many academic and civic institutions in Chicago including the Gary Comer Youth Center where the Obama Foundation held its press conference to announce site selection in May 2015. Other notable works include the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, Gary Comer College Prep in Chicago, and the Illinois Institute of Technology Innovation Center. Ronan was awarded the AIA Institute National Honor Award for both the Poetry Foundation and the Gary Comer Youth Center.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genova, Italy

Founded in 1981 by Renzo Piano, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop is headquartered in Genova, Italy, with offices in New York. Mr. Piano was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998 and the AIA Gold Medal in 2008. Notable works include the modern wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, the California Academy of Science, and the Whitney Museum’s new building on Gansevoort Street in New York. Current projects include the Palais de Justice in Paris, France.

SHoP Architects, New York, NY

Founded in 1996 and based in lower Manhattan, SHoP is led by five principals: Christopher Sharples, Coren Sharples, Gregg Pasquarelli, Kimberly Holden, and William Sharples. SHoP Architects won the Architecture Design award from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2009. Notable work includes the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone, Botswana, and academic buildings at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. SHoP is currently designing Uber’s new headquarters in San Francisco.

Snøhetta, New York, NY

Snøhetta is a U.S.-based firm with offices in New York and San Francisco. Originally founded in Norway by Craig Dykers and Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, the firm is owned and operated by Craig and his wife Elaine Molinar. Snøhetta was awarded the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Prize in 2009 for the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. Snøhetta’s body of work includes the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, the expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, New York, NY

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien founded their New York-based firm in 1974. Their studio — by choice — designs only institutional, academic, civic, and residential work. They were awarded the 2013 National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. Noteworthy work designed by Williams and Tsien include the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, and the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California. They are currently designing the United States Embassy complex in Mexico.

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