What Will the OPC Look Like?
Last week the Obama Foundation unveiled the initial design by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners (TWBTA) and Interactive Design Architects (IDEA) for the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), located on a portion of Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side. The design consists of three buildings – two low and one tall – arranged about a central plaza that faces west. Images were limited to some model shots and a rendering looking north across the plaza toward the tall museum volume. Not surprisingly, much of the criticism of the initial design has focused on the museum “tower,” which readers of Blair Kamin “are likening it to a Mayan temple, a pyramid or a mausoleum … [and] view the design as an opaque and self-important structure, not a beacon of transparency.”
One side effect of unveilings like last week is that, even if renderings appear clearly as renderings, people think that what they’ll see is what they get. Yet architectural designs go through sometimes dramatic changes from concept design to the final design that is built. One case in point is TWBTA’s own Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus, about a half-mile west of the OPC site. Like the OPC, the firm’s 2008 Logan design featured a tower – a top-heavy one at that:
[Rendering of Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts by TWBTA, 2008]
In a short Building of the Week feature at World-Architects, the architects responded to my question about any changes in the project with: “As the project moved forward, the design evolved, but ultimately the concept didn’t change. This was based on a tower and a field. … The tower became simpler than the competition entry which had a cantilever at the top.” That change in the tower design is clear when comparing the above rendering to a photo as completed (note: rendering is from the northeast, while the photo is from the northwest):
[Photograph of completed Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts by TWBTA, 2012 | image source]
The final design of the Logan Center tower makes it clear that TWBTA design from the inside out; the openings, sections of curtain wall, and outdoor space relate to particular functions housed in the tower. And as Kamin states in his article about OPC’s tower, “The contents of the museum and their display still must be worked out by the architects and the exhibition designers, New York’s Ralph Appelbaum Associates.” So it’s highly likely that the “Mayan temple” will resemble something else – or more likely have an unanticipated appearance, in the manner of Logan – as the design advances toward construction.
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