The Obama Presidential Center will include a world-class museum and public gathering spaces that celebrate our nation’s first African American President and First Lady on the South Side of Chicago. President and Mrs. Obama believe that building the Obama Presidential Center is an opportunity to give back to and reinvest in the community that forever shaped their lives, values, and beliefs.
The Center was designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects + Partners, and the landscape was designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
When it's complete, the project will be a welcoming, vibrant campus where people from across the street or around the globe can come to get inspired, find common ground, and take action.
The Obama Presidential Center campus will include a number of indoor and outdoor venues to connect, inspire, and build community, including a garden, playground, museum, signature art commissions, a Chicago Public Library branch and more. Learn more below.
Upon arriving, visitors will be welcomed into the heart of the Center—a public plaza that serves as a place for the Foundation and our neighbors to host informal and planned gatherings alike. Anchored by public art, the Plaza will connect the Forum, Library and Museum buildings, and be a space to host outdoor performances, markets, and fairs, named in honor of the late civil rights leader and Congressman, John Lewis.
The Forum building will serve as a place to welcome the local community—a commons designed to bring people together. Largely built into the landscape of Jackson Park, the Forum will feature numerous collaborative and creative spaces, including the Hadiya Pendleton Winter Garden, the Elie Wiesel Auditorium, a recording studio, flexible program rooms and a restaurant. It will also provide plenty of spaces for people to relax, eat, do their homework, or play a game of chess.
The Winter Garden is named in honor of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teen who died by gun violence shortly after participating in President Obama’s second inauguration activities with her majorette squad. The long, rectangular space spans the western face of the Forum Building with large windows that look out to the Plaza, and it includes a platform for performances and small gatherings, and spaces to sit and enjoy casual connections.
The Auditorium, a signature space at the Center and also located in the Forum, is named in honor of Holocaust survivor and political activist, Elie Wiesel. Inspired by programming in the East Room of the White House during the Obama Presidency, the Auditorium is where the arts and humanities will come to life and dynamic speakers and performers from the South Side of Chicago, across the country, and around the world will reach the world.
The Museum building will be a new landmark for the South Side, welcoming visitors to Jackson Park and marking the Center as an historic civic destination. The Museum building design embodies the idea of ascension—of a movement upward from the grassroots. Its form is inspired by the idea of four hands coming together; a recognition that many hands shape a place.
Inside, exhibits will explore the fullness of the American story—from the promise of our founding documents to the movements that challenged us to live up to them. Visitors will explore the stories of the volunteers who powered the campaign toward history, and examine the eight years of progress, setback, and hope that followed.
A new branch of the Chicago Public Library will feature interactive digital media spaces and amenities for children, informational and vocational resources for adults, and a reading room for all to enjoy. This unique partnership is the first of its kind and will provide almost every South Side resident with access to a public library within walking distance.
World-renowned artist and Chicago native Richard Hunt’s “Book Bird” sculpture will be placed in the garden outside of the new Chicago Public Library branch on the Obama Presidential Center campus.
Similar to the garden that Mrs. Obama planted at the White House, this one will be a place where young people and community members can get their hands dirty and learn about growing fruits and vegetables—and there will even be a few bee hives for honey.
The park surrounding the Center will offer play areas, walking paths, and a sledding hill, all connected by a long pedestrian promenade that joins the Center to Jackson Park and runs alongside its beautiful and historic lagoons.
And it wouldn’t be the Obama Presidential Center without a place to shoot some hoops. The fourth main building on the campus will be the Program, Athletic, and Activity Center. The facility will be a home for recreation, wellness, community programming, and events.