Obama library stirs speculation ahead of official announcement
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Adjaye in the frame for Obama library ahead of official announcement

Chicago is expected to be named as the location for the Obama presidential library next week, with David Adjaye tipped to be the project's architect.

Chicago has beaten Honolulu and New York to be selected as the host of the new Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum, according to reports based on leaks from two insiders ahead of next week's formal announcement.

The Barack H Obama Foundation – the nonprofit organisation overseeing the project – is expected to formally announce that the University of Chicago will host the facility at an event on Tuesday.

Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture by David Adjaye and FAB
Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC by David Adjaye and FAB

The organisation will also reveal whether the building will be constructed in Washington Park or Jackson Park, both located within the city's South Side neighbourhood, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The foundation could also name a designer, although it has not confirmed that this will form part of the announcement.

According to Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, the Barack H Obama Foundation "has given no indication of how the Obamas intend to make that choice."

Over the past couple of years, the design press has speculated the commission could go to David Adjaye, who has been referred to as Obama's favourite architect. In 2012, Adjaye sat at the head table during a 2012 state dinner hosted by Obama for British prime minister David Cameron.

Born in Tanzania and based in London, Adjaye would be the first non-American architect to design a presidential library.

The Francis Gregory Library by Adjaye Associates
The Francis Gregory Library in Washington DC by David Adjaye. Photograph by Edward Sumner

Adjaye is no newcomer to the US. He designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture for Washington DC, which is now under construction, along with two neighbourhood libraries.

His Sugar Hill housing complex in Harlem opened in 2014, and his Denver Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 2007. The Art Institute of Chicago will feature Adjaye's work in a solo exhibition this Autumn.

Other architects mentioned as candidates for the sought-after commission include Chicago-based Jeanne Gang, whose firm Studio Gang has designed projects ranging from the Aqua Tower in its hometown to the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership in Michigan.

Renzo Piano is also purported to be a contender. Piano designed the Art Institute's Modern Wing, and like Adjaye, he has dined with the president — at a 2014 dinner in Rome attended by Italian intellectuals and business leaders – according to the New York Times.

Last week, Michelle Obama attended a dedication ceremony for the new Whitney Museum in New York and said she "fell in the love" with the Piano-designed building.

Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago by Renzo Piano
Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago by Renzo Piano

Another possible candidate is Phil Freelon, whose firm The Freelon Group was acquired by Perkins + Will in 2014. Freelon worked with Adjaye on the African American History and Culture museum, and he was the design architect for the National Center for Civil Rights in Atlanta. Freelon was appointed by Obama in 2011 to serve on the National Commission of Fine Arts.

There are currently 13 official presidential libraries in the US, each dedicated to presenting documents and artifacts related to a former president. Their construction is funded by private and non-federal sources. Once complete, they are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, an independent agency that receives federal funding.

The Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum will house ephemera related to Obama, the 44th president of the US.

Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership by Studio Gang
Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership by Studio Gang. Photograph by Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing

In January 2014, the Barack H Obama Foundation was established to oversee the creation of the facility.

Institutions wanting to host the facility were invited to submit bids. Last June, four universities were shortlisted: the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Hawaii, and Columbia University. The schools submitted their final proposals in December.

Image of the Chicago skyline courtesy of Shutterstock.