Return of a Favorite Son to the Windy City? – CAC’s Barack Obama Library Competition


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Winning entry by Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang (all images courtesy of the CAC)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was the perception that a Barack Obama presidency would usher in an era of new ideas. Years later, there has been some isolated progress, but partisan politics has limited any wiggle room an Obama presidency might have enjoyed. Still, there is a hope for a final decision by this president that could set a precedent for the foreseeable future: a design competition for a presidential library. A successful national competition for such a project could set an example to be emulated many times over at state and municipal levels by a tested democratic process.


Although the site of a Barack Obama Presidential Library has not yet been determined, the list has been whittled down to three possibilities: Chicago, New York and Hawaii. Although Hawaii is the President’s birthplace, and New York would have a large number of visitors, Chicago would seem to be the logical favorite, as it is the place where Obama’s political future began in its meteoric rise, culminating in his election to the nation’s highest office.


A lot has happened in Chicago as both government and the University of Chicago have taken steps to prepare for the city’s bid. A recent article has described aggressive real estate purchases by the University starting in 2008, including an entire block along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. These could well be attributed to future expansion plans by the University into an adjoining neighborhood, near Washington Park. But many see these real estate acquisitions as part of a strategy to assure the library’s location near the university, where Obama briefly taught in the Law School before going to Washington. In any case, the City also regards the Washington Park and Jackson Park locations on the South Side as the most logical sites for the library.

With the prospect of a presidential library in Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Club (CAC) could not resist staging an ideas competition with the design of an Obama library as the design challenge. As the 2014 Chicago Architecture Prize, this has become an annual event for the CAC, and this time they picked an obvious subject as a winner. Aside from a designated site on the Chicago River, the program was flexible, and participants were asked to fill in the blanks themselves. Although the prize money was relatively modest, the subject matter had to be tantalizing for potential participants. The jury was local, consisting of architects from several of the city’s major firms:

• Andy Metter (Epstein)

• Brian Lee (SOM)

• Dan Wheeler (Wheeler Kearns Architects)

• Elva Rubio (Rubio Studio)

• Geoffrey Goldberg (G. Goldberg + Associates)

• Stanley Tigerman (Tigerman McCurry Architects)


The results of the competition revealed that the competition was highly successful, in that it elicited a range of ideas, which were not only at the highest creative level, but quite doable.

The two winning entries were by:

Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang, Beijing, China

Aras Burak Sen, Los Angeles/UAE (OMA)

Honorable Mentions

Dániel Palotai, Budapest, Hungary

Drew Cowdrey and Trey Kirk, Boston (Harvard GSD)

Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, Boston (Harvard GSD)

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A Conversation with an Icon: Steven Holl Wins the Mumbai City Museum Competition


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Winning entry by Steven Holl

The decision to stage an international competition for a “North Wing extension” to the Mumbai City Museum had to be an interesting challenge for the organizers. The present building, also known as the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (photos, left and opposite), was dedicated in 1872 and had a distinct English colonial flavor, with emphasis on the Victorian. It had recently undergone a major restoration, and the interior is certainly one of the major examples of architecture of the pre-modern age in India. With that in mind, the initial question for any structural addition—aside from space requirements—had to be: what should it look like, and how would it relate to the existing museum?


The space program asked for an 8,000-10,000 sqm.(approximately 120,000 sf.) extension to include a conservation centre, library and archives, and a new museum shop and cafe. The new structure was to be freestanding, and thus, not simply a background building, but an architectural statement in itself. What kind of statement was somewhat evident in the choice of the short-listed architectural firms. Not one of those selected could be called a traditionalist, and some could obviously be connected to a certain style. In any case, the participating architects did not have to be concerned about a jury panel that might be leaning toward a traditionalist solution.


The short-listed firms were:

• AL_A with PK Das, Arup, Turner & Townsend, GROSS. MAX and Superflux
• Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos with Malik Architecture, Arup and Empty
• OMA + S&K with Meinhardt India, Houtman + Sander, GMD Consultants and Langdon Seah
• Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects with Christopher Charles Benninger Architects (CCBA), Leslie E. Robertson Associates International (LERA), Buro Happold, WORKSHOP: Ken Smith Landscape Architect and George Sexton Associates
• Steven Holl Architects with Opolis Architects, Guy Nordenson and Associates, AECOM, Dongre Project Management Consultants, Transsolar and L’Observatoire
• Studio Mumbai Architecture + Edifice Consultants with Sterling Engineering Consultancy Services and Eskayem Consultants
• wHY with Ganti + Associates, Sterling Engineering, Sterling and Wilson, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Buro Happold, Local Projects and Quantsoft India
•Zaha Hadid Architects with Sameep Padora Associates (sP+a), AKT II, Max Fordham, Dan Pearson Studio and AECOM


The competition jury may have been short on architects, but was heavily represented by institutional experts from museums. One interesting choice was museum director Martin Roth, whose Victoria and Albert Museum in London had been the subject of a controversial modern extension in the 1990s by Daniel Libeskind. Initially, the Mumbai Museum was named its London V&A counterpart, but later renamed. The competition was administered by Malcolm Reading Consultants of London, a firm which has gained an international reputation for the organization of such events.


The jury panel consisted of:

• Sitaram Kunte – Chair of Jury, the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai and Co-Chairman,Trustee of the Museum
• Tasneem Mehta – Deputy Chair of Jury, the Managing Trustee & Honorary Director of the Museum
• Minal Bajaj, a Director of Bajaj Auto Ltd. and a Donor Trustee of the Museum
• Shyam Benegal, a Trustee of the Museum and a prolific filmmaker
• Homi Bhabha, Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard as well as the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English
• Vishakha Desai, the Special Advisor for Global Affairs and Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University
• Rajiv Jalota, the Additional Municipal Commissioner, Projects, M.C.G.M., and Trustee of the Museum
• Sen Kapadia, founder of Sen Kapadia Associates
• Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of the Mahindra Group
• Martin Roth, the Director of the V&A Museum in London
• Aroon Tikekar, the former President of the Asiatic Society in Mumbai, a prolific author, journalist and authority on Mumbai


The jury selection process lasted for three days, during which jurors examined the entries and interviewed the participating firms. In the end, the jury was unanimous in awarding the commission to Steven Holl Architects, with Amanda Levette’s AL_A firm receiving an honorable mention.


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Wolne Tory w Poznaniu land development project

Sponsor: City of Poznań and Polskie Koleje Państwowe S.A. [Polish State Railways Joint Stock Company]

Location: Poznań, Poland

Type: Open, two-stage

Languages: Polish

Eligiblity: Architects, urban planners

Entrance Fee: None

Awards: First Prize – PLN 171,000 (approx 43,800 USD) Second Prize – PLN 111,000 (approx 28,460 USD) Third Prize – PLN 71,000 (approx 18,200 USD)

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Tallin Architecture Biennale 2015: Epicentre of Tallinn, Estonia

Sponsor: Estonian Centre of Architecture

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Type: Open, international, ideas, one stage

Language: English

Eligiblity: Open to all architects and students of architecture.

Entrance Fee: None


1st Prize – €4,000 2nd Prize – €2,000 3rd Prize – €1,000

Submission Deadline: 9 May 2015


Endrik Mand – Chief Architect of

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Shabbyshabby Apartments Design Build Competition

Sponsor: raumlaborberlin and Münchner Kammerspiele

Location: Munich, Germany

Type: Open, international

Languages: English, German

Eligiblity: Open to all designers

Awards: Winners will be covered for costs of accomodation and food, tools and material (max 250€), but not travel expenses.

Registration Deadline:

Submission Deadline: 30 March 2015

Design Challenge: We need low cost housing in

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UD4U Urban Design Competition

Sponsor: UD4U

Location:ÂÂ Kenosha, WI

Type: Open, international, ideas, one stage

Languages: English

Eligiblity: Urban Designers, Architects, Architecture Graduates, Urban Planners, Landscape Architects and Students.

Urban Design is a highly collaborative field, therefore interdisciplinary teams are highly encouraged to enter the Competition.

Submissions can be the work of an individual or a group of up

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Bauhaus Museum Dessau

Sponsor: Bauhaus Dessau

Type: International, two stage

Location: Dessau, Germany

Languages: English, German

Awards: Winner – € 37,000 Second Place – € 25,000 Third Place – € 17,000 Fourth Place – € 11,000 € 23,000 available for honorable mentions


13 April 2015 – Phase 1 Submission Deadline 31 July 2015 – Phase 2 Submission

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Chyne New School International Competition

Sponsor: Centre for Central European Architecture

Type: International, one stage

Location: Chyne, Czech Republic

Languages: English, Czech

Eligiblity: citizens of the Czech Republic, or have a headquarters or place of business in a member state of the European Union or any other state that has a concluded international contract with the Czech Republic or the

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Preston Bus Station

Sponsor: RIBA, Lancashire County Council

Type: Open, international, two stage

Location: Lancashire County, UK

Languages: English

Eligibility: The competition is open internationally to multi-disciplinary architect-led teams. Architects should be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) in the UK, or an equivalent, recognised overseas regulatory authority.

Awards: The five shortlisted teams will each receive honoraria

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Gowanus by Design Competition: “Axis Civitas”

Sponsor: Gowanus by Design

Type: Open, international, ideas

Location: Gowanus Neigborhood, Brooklyn, NY

Languages: English

Eligibility: Team leaders must be ages 21 and over (supervised school groups are encouraged to submit). Teams are encouraged and the competition committee also encourages the participation of at least one design professional on each team.

Fees: Professional: $75 per

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