To complement ARCHITECT’s coverage of the George W. Bush Library opening, Esto’s photographers gathered a collection of three past presidential ventures: those of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the latter of whom is credited as having begun the tradition of the presidential library. During his second term, Roosevelt recognized the importance making available for research the ever-accumulating documents of his administration; after raising private funds and donating land in his hometown of Hyde Park, N.Y., he commissioned the library, which was completed and donated to the National Archives in 1940. Additions to the library made the preservation of Eleanor Roosevelt’s collection of over 3 million pages possible; a LEED Silver-certified visitor center opened in 2003 to further expand amenities and services for library patrons. Subsequent libraries—which serve mainly as archives and museums for their respective presidents, as well as permanent legacies—were enabled by the passing of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955.
Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill oversaw the LBJ Presidential Library, in Austin, Texas—the most-visited library of the National Archives collection—which is an unadorned 10-story travertine monolith on UT Austin’s campus that features a 7/8-scale recreation of Johnson’s Oval Office. The library’s Great Hall boasts a ceremonial staircase and views into four floors of its eight-level archive, which contains 5000 hours of recordings from Johnson’s tenure as president; an animatronic version of President Johnson greets visitors at the library entrance.
The first federal building to earn LEED Platinum, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, designed by Polshek Partnership Architects (now known as Ennead Architects), cantilevers out over the Arkansas River in Little Rock; the Clinton Library’s archives feature 21 million emails and 79,000 artifacts, making its collection the largest of the presidential libraries. The library shares a campus with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas.