Hello Mostafa Kamal,
Over the past year, Michelle and I have been working with an extraordinary team to dream up a campus for active citizenship on the South Side of Chicago. And while this Presidential Center may have our name on it, we’re developing it every step of the way with your input, and with you in mind.
So far, thousands of you have helped hone our approach to the Center and shaped its design. From community meetings to online surveys, you’ve inspired us, challenged us, and made our plans better.
Today, we’re taking a big step towards the start of construction. So I want you to hear directly from me where things stand — and share a few images of what we’re thinking, as well.
When I was younger, there was a time I dreamed of being an architect. So, as you might guess, I’ve been pretty hands-on in the plans for this Center — and Michelle has, too. We want it to be a place full of life and activity, where Chicagoans and visitors alike can explore, exchange ideas, learn, and have some fun.
First, as we’ve said before, the Obama Presidential Center will be an open, inclusive campus that integrates directly into Jackson Park. We’ll have a Museum and Library building, of course, but the campus will also include a place we’re calling the “Forum” — a public meeting space where anybody can come together for some local programming, or to gather for larger-scale events in an auditorium, maybe record something in a broadcast studio, or just have a bite to eat.
These buildings will frame a community-facing public plaza, designed to be a town square of sorts for gatherings both informal and planned. There will be play areas, an indoor athletic facility, walking paths, even a sledding hill. It will be a space for all seasons, for folks from all walks of life, from Chicago and all around the world. That’s the most vital aspect of the Obama Presidential Center — creating spaces for people to connect and collaborate, to take home a piece of what you’ve learned together. Because at the end of the day, the real action won’t happen here. It’ll happen in communities around the country, and the world. That was true when I was a candidate for president, and it’s true now.
Check out sketches of our model
The Forum and Library Building are two-story structures that are nestled into the park and, in fact, covered by part of it. The Museum building is a tower, a form representing hope — in particular, the hard-earned hope of what ordinary people have the power to do together. We actually designed it with this photo in mind — of hands coming together — and so each facade of the tower will be a little different from the next. It’s our way of showing that it takes many hands to shape a place.
It takes many hands to shape a place
Building something new is never easy. It requires patience. It requires listening. Not just listening for show, but actively incorporating what we’ve learned into the plans. And that’s why public input has been absolutely central to our process. We’ve taken your thoughts and concerns, and reconsidered and reconceived various aspects of the campus design and the details of the architecture. We’ve reimagined the landscape plans and the recreational spaces. And we’re far from finished. We’re going to continue to iterate on these plans, and we’re going to continue to turn to you for your feedback.
Check out sketches of our model
Here’s the most important thing: Michelle and I want this Center to be more than a building or a museum. We want to create an economic engine for Chicago and the South Side, and a cultural destination that showcases the South Side to the rest of the world. We want it to be a gathering place — somewhere for all kinds of people to come together and learn, not just from history or current events, but from each other. More than a museum with stories from the past, we want this to be a place that helps and inspires all of us to build our collective future. This Center is for young people on the South Side and for young people all around the world — the leaders of tomorrow who are ready to step up and build the world as it should be. And Michelle and I are grateful to all of you for being a part of it.
So please stay involved and stay tuned — we’ll be in touch with more soon.