Friday, August 28, 2015

We got the Obama presidential library, but will we get to design it as well?

The fight with New York and Honolulu is over – the main facility of the presidential library and museum that will honor the two terms of Barack Obama will be located in Chicago – and on the fringes of the Hyde Park neighborhood as well.

OBAMA: Now we fight over who does design
So now that Chicagoans can’t quarrel over whether or not we’re being deprived of the facility itself, it seems we will now fight over whether the Second City is being snubbed by having an out-of-town (or out-of-country) architect design the facility.

AT LEAST THAT’S the impression I got when officials with the Barack Obama Foundation made it known that they sent out invitations to select architects, asking them to take an interest in the project.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the foundation wants those companies to present their credentials and references by Sept. 16; if they want the project!

Although it also was made known that anybody is permitted to apply, and that the foundation doesn’t expect to see finished plans for a library at this point.

This is more about flushing out who is interested in being the architect who gets credit for designing the Washington Park-based facility that officials hope becomes a major tourist attraction for the South Side – and also one of those places that Chicago schoolchildren of the future will wind up taking many field trips to.

IN SHORT, IT would be a prominent place in Chicago. It would be the kind of facility that will draw public attention – and could also be the source of great derision if the ultimate design turns out to be something completely gaudy.

Then again, I’m sure the conservative ideologues are going to call it the ugliest building known to mankind regardless of what the final design is. Some people, particularly with regard to Obama, are going to complain regardless of what happens.

Which also applies to the idea of choosing an architect.

I’m wondering how much of an issue it will be if the Obama foundation even considers choosing a non-Chicago-based architect to design the building.

WILL WE DENOUNCE Obama as some sort of city traitor? Somebody who never was really one of us? Somebody who thinks he is too good to continue to live amongst us?

You just know that charge is forthcoming – particularly since a recent Washington Post story that told of how Obama and first lady Michelle are likely to wind up living in New York once the presidential term ends in 2017 and daughter Sasha graduates from high school a couple of years later.

Add in an out-of-town architect to a city whose residents like to brag about the quality of local pizza, Polish sausage and architecture (and don’t seem ashamed that the Cubs are so historically awful), and you know it will be a stink.

The Tribune pointed out that every single presidential library/museum to date has been designed by a U.S. architect (if not somebody local). So what if Obama picks a firm from out-of-country? I can already hear the shouting and screaming and yelling and whining!

BECAUSE FOR AS much as we Chicagoans like to go on and on about how we’re an “international” city with a place on the world scale, we’re also incredible of being ridiculously parochial.

We’re bound to think that nobody outside of the neighborhoods is worthy of involvement in this project. Some may even argue this ought to be exclusively a South Side project that MUST have a minority-owned architectural firm in charge.
We may even wind up bragging someday about how many Chicago-made bricks and beams of steel are used in the final structure, and how many Chicagoans were involved in its construction. All of which is intriguing because the building has the potential to be one of the few presidential library facilities that people actually visit.

Sorry ideologues, but the Obama presidency is more notable historically (and politically) than any of the clowns you’d prefer to praise.


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