Obama Foundation Chooses Landscape Architects for Presidential Library

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will work alongside several Chicago companies to design the 20 acres of land surrounding the Jackson Park location.

By Yao Xen Tan, Contributor

Last week, the Obama Foundation announced the team of landscape architects that will help shape the 20-acre grounds surrounding the Obama presidential library in Jackson Park.  

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, an architectural firm based in New York, will serve as the lead designer, while Chicago-based landscape architects Site Design Group and Living Habitats will serve as partner designers. The landscape architects will be working together with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the firm behind the award-winning Logan Center for the Arts on UChicago’s campus. 
“This highly skilled and diverse team stood out in their commitment to creating accessible public spaces that honor their environment, community, and history,” said David Simas, the Obama Foundation's CEO, in a public statement. 

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates is a prestigious architectural firm, nationally renowned for its work on the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The firm has also worked on a number of high-profile projects in Chicago, notably Maggie Daley Park and The 606 trail. 

The firm is known for integrating various themes and interactive elements into the public spaces it crafts. Maggie Daley Park features a quarter-mile-long ice-skating ribbon that bends with the park’s trails. The 606 was converted into a recreational trail park from an abandoned railroad line. 

If the Obama Foundation gets its way, a couple of major roads that cut through Jackson Park could be closed to provide a more pedestrian-friendly experience to library visitors. Discussions are currently being floated among community leaders. “It is premature to talk about specific ideas related to site configuration, improvements, street and access matters, and related issues,” said a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “Options will be fully vetted once additional details on the center have been developed.” 

With the center’s building and landscape design team finalized, residents will wait for a first look at the proposed design of the complex. 

In a statement to DNAinfo Chicago, Site Design Group founder Ernest Wong expressed a strong connection to the project. “Growing up in the Hyde Park–Kenwood community has infused in me a sense of responsibility to the South Side and the city as a whole,” Wong said. 

Site Design Group is a certified majority-minority ownership firm that has designed Chinatown’s Ping Tom Memorial Park among other projects. Living Habitats is a certified majority women-owned business dedicated to designing environmentally-sensitive residences.