Chicago-based John Ronan is the only local architect to have been issued with a formal request to develop a design proposal for the Obama Presidential Center.
Ronan will be competing against London-based David Adjaye, New York studios Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SHoP Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Italian architect Renzo Piano, and Scandinavian firm Snøhetta.
The building will include a library containing Obama's presidential archives and a museum dedicated to his presidency. The project will be funded by private donations.
"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," he said. "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."
Chicago was chosen as the host city in May, beating bids from Honolulu and New York. The announcement was made in the Comer Youth Center, designed by Ronan.
Snøhetta, which designed the entrance pavilion for the National September 11 Memorial Museum, had been among the firms to design proposals for Honolulu's pitch.
Adjaye has been a strong favourite for the job for the past two years, thanks to his already close connection to the US president. In 2012, the architect sat at the head table during a state dinner hosted by Obama for British prime minister David Cameron. He has been referred to as Obama's favourite architect.
He has also recently 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 the Art Institute of Chicago featured Adjaye's work in a solo exhibition earlier this year.
Piano had been tipped to be on the list after first lady Michelle Obama said she "fell in love" with his new Whitney Museum in New York. 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.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro recently completed work on The Broad art museum in Los Angeles, which is seen as a key catalyst in the city's architectural renaissance. The firm's best-known project is the High Line elevated park in New York.
SHoP is behind plans for a new tech district in Miami and a super-tall skinny skyscraper in Brooklyn, while the more established husband and wife partnership Williams and Tsien recently saw one of its well-known buildings, the American Folk Art Museum, demolished to make way for a MoMA expansion. In 2013 Obama awarded Williams and Tsien a National Medal of Arts.
Studio Gang, the Chicago firm founded by Jeanne Gang, was also a speculative favourite, but is not on the shortlist.
The structure, to be built after Obama's final term ends, 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.
Presidential libraries have rarely been the subject of such heated speculation and closely observed competition. Robert A M Stern designed the most recent addition to the oeuvre – the George W Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Polshek Partnership, now known as Ennead, designed the Clinton Library in Little Rock.