Renzo Piano and more vie for Obama Presidential Library
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Renzo Piano and Diller Scofidio + Renfro competing for Obama Presidential Library

At least 11 firms have been invited to apply for the Barack Obama Presidential Library design contract in Chicago.

Prominent firms from Chicago, across the US, and a handful of international architects have all been contacted by the Barack Obama Foundation to submit qualifications for the project, according to Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin.

According to Kamin, Renzo Piano – who completed a large addition to the Art Institute of Chicago several years ago – is among those who have been invited to bid for the new building. Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York was recently dedicated by first lady Michelle Obama.

bb-modern-wing-at-the-art-institute-of-chicago-by-renzo-piano-squ-detail-of-facade
Top image: Chicago skyline (Wikimedia Commons). This image: The Modern Wing by Renzo Piano Building Workshop at the Art Institute of Chicago

The architects of the two previous Presidential libraries are also on the long list. Robert A M Stern designed the George W Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Former first lady Laura Bush is an alumna of the school. Polshek Partnership, now known as Ennead, designed the Clinton library in Little Rock.

Chicago-based German architect Helmut Jahn is also on the list. Jahn was a guest at a State Dinner for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Chicago firms Ross Barney Architects, Krueck + Sexton, Tigerman McCurry and Perkins + Will have all been approached, according to Kamin's report.

The Broad museum in Los Angeles, designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro
The Broad museum in Los Angeles, designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro

Other American firms on the list include the San Francisco office of SOM and Diller Scofidio + Renfro – the latter having recently completed The Broad art museum in Los Angeles. The Freelon Group, one of the most prominent African American-led firms in the US, is also in contention.

British architect David Adjaye has long been a strong favourite for the job but his participation has not yet been confirmed.

Chicago-based Studio Gang is also a likely candidate, though Jeanne Gang declined to comment to the Tribune. Kamin names Morphosis – the LA-based firm founded by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne – as another unconfirmed possibility.

The Studio Museum in Harlem by David Adjaye, who is in the frame for the contract
The proposal for the Studio Museum in Harlem by David Adjaye, who is in the frame for the contract

The library, to be built after Obama's final term ends, will house ephemera relating to his life and presidency. It will be the 14th official presidential library in the US, each dedicated to presenting documents and artefacts related to a former president – alongside scholarly libraries and spaces for private philanthropic and education foundations.

Their construction is privately funded. Once complete, they are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, an independent agency that receives federal funding.

Organisers from the sitting president's foundation confirmed that Chicago would host the Obama presidential library in May, with the city defeating proposals from New York and Hawaii.

The 348-metre-high Wanda Vista skyscraper in Chicago, by local office Studio Gang
The proposed 348-metre-high Wanda Vista skyscraper in Chicago, by local office Studio Gang

Two sites, in Washington and Jackson parks, have been identified as possible locations for the Obama library project. Both parks are located on Chicago's South Side, where Michelle Obama grew up, and were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, America's most renowned landscape architect.

The park locations have been controversial, as some open-space advocates see it as a privatisation of public land.