Architects for OPC meet members of the community at DuSable

Architect Billie Tsien speaks as Todd Williams, her architectural-firm partner and husband, and Dina Griffin, of Interactive Design Architects, listen during an Obama Foundation meet and greet reception at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 750 E. 56th Pl., where the three were introduced as the architectural team for the Obama Presidential Center, Tuesday, March 28. – Marc Monaghan

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., hosted a meet a greet reception featuring the architects for the Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC) Tuesday, March 28.

After introductions had been made, guests had the opportunity to speak with the architects about their vision for the OPC, which will house a library holding the Presidential archives, a museum focusing on the Obama Presidency and space for programs and initiatives that advance the foundation’s public mission.

Michael Strautmanis, vice president for Civic Engagement at the Obama Foundation, reiterated that the Obamas have a goal to make the OPC unlike any other Presidential Center in the country. Typically, according to Strautmanis, Presidential Centers are tucked away in serene and quiet areas.

“The President and Mrs. Obama want this to be more than just a museum that houses their archives,” Strautmanis said. “They want it to be a living working center for engaged citizens.”

Strautmanis said the Obamas are still deciding on designs for the OPC.

“The President is really still exploring ideas,” Strautmanis said. “More conversations are set to take place with the community and the architects for the OPC so that they get an understanding of what the community wants to see so that their plans align with the both the Obamas and the community.”

Strautmanis said, “Once the President and Mrs. Obama have settled on that experience, and what they want to see, believe me, they will want to share…their overall vision with you.”

Groundbreaking for the OPC is slated to begin as early as 2018.

Strautmanis spoke highly of the group of architects (landscape and exhibition designers and artists) that will construct the OPC. He said their vision is to make the OPC an experience for guests.

Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Barack Obama Foundation, his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), and south side community members listen as the Obama Center Presidential Center’s architectural team is introduced during an Obama Foundation meet and greet reception at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 750 E. 56th Pl., Tuesday, March 28. – Marc Monaghan

The group consists of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien husband and wife team, Dina Griffin, Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA), Site Design Group, Living Habitats, Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), Civic Projects LLC and Normal, and the artists and educators Amanda Williams, Andres Hernandez, and Norman Teague.

Tsien said when the Obama Foundation called to tell them that they’d won the project she was ecstatic.

“We are so honored and feel such a huge responsibility to you the community to expressing the legacy and the future of the Obamas,” Tsien said.

“I have a huge love for this lake this land,” Williams said.

Griffin, who was born and raised in Hyde Park, graduated from Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., and feels that the OPC is a project for the community.

“I think that transition going from there [Kenwood] to the University of Illinois [Champaign] and having my profession mapped out to culminate in this project is a dream come true,” Griffin said.

The OPC will open to the public in 2021.

t.hill@hpherald.com