The international competition for an architect to design the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) kicked off Wednesday when the Barack Obama Foundation issued a request for qualifications to a select group of architects, though others may also apply. The foundation requested that the architects submit credentials, references, a portfolio, and examples of diversity efforts by Sept. 16. Submissions that include design concepts or sketches of the library will be disqualified.
According to the Chicago Tribune, foundation chairman Martin Nesbitt would not reveal the names or even the number of selected firms. But officials confirmed that 90 percent of the invited firms are American, and Chicago architects are well-represented in that group.
A foreign architect winning the competition would mark the first time a non-American has designed an American presidential library. And that wouldn’t be the only “first” for this project: The OPC will be the first presidential library located in the heart of a low-income, predominantly African-American community. Though the specific site has not yet been selected, the center will be located in Chicago’s South Side, in either Jackson or Washington Park.
The center will consist of a library to hold Presidential archives, an interactive museum focusing on Obama’s time in office, expansive green space with community gardens, indoor and outdoor performance spaces, offices for the foundation, and innovation labs.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are expected to select the finalists and issue a request for proposals later this year, with a winner and a Chicago site to be announced early next year. Construction, expected to cost at least $500 million, is not scheduled to begin until after Obama leaves office in Jan. 2017 and will be completed in 2020 or 2021.