So, the Obama Presidential Library Is Really Ugly

 

A discarded Chinese take-out box. The backside of a Star Wars sand crawler. The Washington Monument with the interesting bits lopped off. That’s what sprung to mind when confronted with the initial design of the Obama Presidential Center.

In addition to the tall stone museum with notches and windows cut out at random, the proposal calls for a low-slung forum and library with greenery on the roof. It will be built in Jackson Park in Chicago’s South Side, not far from the Museum of Science and Industry.

According to the Obama Foundation, this will be much more than a mere presidential library. “Through participatory and immersive experiences,” the website says, “the Center will tell Barack and Michelle Obama’s story, while lifting the hood on the mechanics of change and inspiring visitors to spark their own.”

No, I don’t know what that means either.

But the Obamas are going to use it as a community organizing bootcamp to teach new generations how to make hyperviolent Chicago an even less comfortable place to live and work.

As far as the architecture goes, I’m confused about the intent. Their first mistake was choosing Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the duo responsible for turning the light, modernist Phoenix Art Museum into a turgid eyesore that grumbles “keep out” to passers-by. If I had to identify an architectural antecedent to their Obama design, it would be the broken necropolis built two millennia ago in the Kingdom of Kush.

To be fair, modern presidential libraries are pretty bland affairs. George W. Bush‘s complex looks like the headquarters of a mid-market insurance company while Bill Clinton‘s is a double-wide about to tip into the Arkansas River. The only winner is the Reagan Library, but that owes more to siting than architecture.

What are your thoughts: Is the Obama Center a hit or a bust?

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  1. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    It seems to be modeled after the architecture of his native Kenya.

     

    • #1
  2. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    I think it’s wonderful that we celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of … wait … who?

    What did he do again? And if there’s an answer to that question, here’s another: why should we continue it?

    • #2
  3. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    It’s entirely fitting.    It’s a wedge.    He spent his entire Presidency splitting us apart.     A nice riff on Lincoln the rail splitter.   Obama the country splitter.

    • #3
  4. big spaniel Member
    big spaniel
    @bigspaniel

    Not only is it ugly now, but it will get uglier as it ages.

    The design is reminiscent of buildings I saw in Soviet Armenia, which were already crumbling by the mid-1990s.  Those kinds of stone facade panels just don’t last long.

     

    • #4
  5. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Mid 20th Century Soviet Architecture. Seems…fitting?

    • #5
  6. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    I actually like the modern design of the Clinton Library.

    The Reagan Library is perfectly designed for its setting. Yes the setting makes it spectacular, but they were smart enough to know that and put in place a spectacular California Spanish ranch.

    • #6
  7. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: In addition to the tall stone museum with notches and windows cut out at random, the proposal calls for a low-slung forum and library with greenery on the roof.

    D’ya suppose some “ecologically conscious” agitator might be able to persuade them that the whole thing would be greener if it were all done in the style of the low-slung forum and library with the greenery on the roof?

    • #7
  8. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Well … Bubba’s “double-wide” trailer will continue to be the “worst” of Presidential libraries ……..

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    I actually like the modern design of the Clinton Library.

    That’s the one that looks like a double-wide trailer home, right?

    Fitting.
    EDIT: Duh, I see Jon already mentioned it. Plus Columbo beat me by mere seconds!

    • #9
  10. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    My thought:  Your take on this is hysterically brilliant.   Thank you :)

    • #10
  11. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    I’m trying to think of a more awkward metaphor than “lifting the hood on the mechanics of change,” and . . . I just can’t.

    • #11
  12. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    I actually like the modern design of the Clinton Library.

    That’s the one that looks like a double-wide trailer home, right?

    Fitting.

    Did they HAVE to make it phallic?     Is it supposed to be a joke?

    • #12
  13. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I like the design. Not as a design, but as a design totally appropriate for Barack Obama and his totally mismanaged Presidency. I wonder if the architect was laughing at Obama (sees the joke) or was laughing with Obama (is utterly oblivious to the symbolism of this ugly design). Either way, well played.

    Seawriter

    • #13
  14. Son of Barsham Member
    Son of Barsham
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    – Modern Art and Architecture 101 –

    “Ok class, now that you’ve failed out of Modern Art and chosen architecture as your future, you’ll have the privilege of designing the Obama Presidential Library…”

    • #14
  15. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:
    It will be built in Jackson Park in Chicago’s South Side, not far from the Museum of Science and Industry.

    Good, that way I will never see it and it won’t create traffic hassles for me.  That’s pretty much all I care about.

    Though, I’m still not sure why he didn’t pick Havana as the location.  He may have lived in Chicago for a while, but his heart was always in Havana.

    • #15
  16. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm
    @MichaelBrehm

    Columbo (View Comment):
    Well … Bubba’s “double-wide” trailer will continue to be the “worst” of Presidential libraries

    I read somewhere that it was originally designed lopsided in anticipation of some future day when a Hillary wing would be added.  The architect is probably kicking himself these days.

    • #16
  17. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Michael Brehm (View Comment):

    Columbo (View Comment):
    Well … Bubba’s “double-wide” trailer will continue to be the “worst” of Presidential libraries

    I read somewhere that it was originally designed lopsided in anticipation of some future day when a Hillary wing would be added. The architect is probably kicking himself these days.

    Winner. Thread over.

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    big spaniel (View Comment):
    Not only is it ugly now, but it will get uglier as it ages.

    The design is reminiscent of buildings I saw in Soviet Armenia, which were already crumbling by the mid-1990s. Those kinds of stone facade panels just don’t last long.

    wow – interesting comparison. It is ugly, but maybe the rooftop garden will feed some of the suffering since the inner city is getting worse by the day, and he is yet to address that.  He and Emmanuel didn’t help address major inner city problems across the country, the violent gangs, unemployment, lack of safety and opportunity, shootings, rampant drug abuse.  Just what they need – an ugly library….

    • #18
  19. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    If you think that’s ugly, just wait for the Trump library.

    I expect it to be 62 floors tall, all gold, with his name across the top.

    Nah.  Who would ever build something so ugly…

    • #19
  20. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    I think it looks like an eyesore, but I’m old fashioned.  Pretty much anything modernist (and therefore pretty much anything they were likely to get) would have struck me as an eyesore.  So, while an eyesore, it’s not really any worse than I would have expected.

    • #20
  21. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    I actually like the modern design of the Clinton Library.

    That’s the one that looks like a double-wide trailer home, right?

    Fitting.

    Just like Obama’s, a classic case of creativity taking precedence over aesthetics or function.

    • #21
  22. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I think it is appropriate that Obama selected architects who specialize in the East German But With Faux Flair school.

    The use of austere unimaginative blocky materials arranged slightly off-kilter as if doing that were a substitute for actual vision, novelty and artistic substance perfectly sums up an administration whose vision was a pathetic reprise of Woodrow Wilson’s governing ethos but with more telegenic flair and a far greater willingness to lie and distort.

     

    • #22
  23. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I’m trying to think of a more awkward metaphor than “lifting the hood on the mechanics of change,” and . . . I just can’t.

    I hope its on a plaque outside of the library – maybe add a burned out car with the hood up, as a reminder of the hope and change crowd and their classy way of expressing themselves.

    • #23
  24. Joe P Member
    Joe P
    @JoeP

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I’m trying to think of a more awkward metaphor than “lifting the hood on the mechanics of change,” and . . . I just can’t.

    Dropping the trousers on the reality of the Obama administration, and inspiring visitors to contribute their own.

    • #24
  25. Taras Bulbous Inactive
    Taras Bulbous
    @TarasBulbous

    It’s on the south side of Chiraq and looks like a bunker. I’d say it’s form and function.

    • #25
  26. Son of Barsham Member
    Son of Barsham
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    Cato Rand (View Comment):
    I think it looks like an eyesore, but I’m old fashioned. Pretty much anything modernist (and therefore pretty much anything they were likely to get) would have struck me as an eyesore. So, while an eyesore, it’s not really any worse than I would have expected.

    Yeah, that does seem to be the problem. Is there no one that does early 20th Century architecture anymore?

    • #26
  27. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    It reminds me of the type of house some people of African descent with money might build.

    • #27
  28. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    I actually like the modern design of the Clinton Library.

    That’s the one that looks like a double-wide trailer home, right?

    Fitting.

    Did they HAVE to make it phallic? Is it supposed to be a joke?

    To be a true hat tip to Clinton’s contribution to our national decline it would need a slight bend somewhere.

    • #28
  29. Ralphie Inactive
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    It seems a bit big for the book he wrote. And the one he read.

    • #29
  30. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Needs columns.

    Can’t have a proper Obama shrine without columns.

    • #30
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