The Obama Presidential Center Museum design is inspired by “four hands coming together”

11 January 2018
Reading Time
2 minute read

Barack and Michelle Obama have revealed renders of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, a complex of buildings and landscapes including a forum for events, museum, library, athletic centre and outdoor plaza. The museum structure is the landmark of the huge cultural development, and appears as a pear-shaped block – apparently inspired by a photo of four hands coming together.

“Like these hands, each facade of the four-sided tower will be a little different from the next — enhanced with texture and detail, and offering a beautiful and unique experience from all angles,” says a statement on the Obama’s website. The museum building is a tower representing, it says, “ascension, hope, and what ordinary people have the power to do together”.

Designed by TWBTA architects in partnership with Interactive Design Architects (IDEA), the museum will host exhibitions that “tell the Obamas’ story” in the context of the history of civil rights history, African-American history, and the history of Chicago and the US. It will also house public space such as an observation space.

The forum building has one floor at ground level and one below, and has an auditorium, broadcast studio, restaurant and garden. The library aims to be “more than a building housing documents from the past,” hoping to engage visitors with building the collection and possibly partner with Chicago Public Library. The museum, forum and library will surround a public plaza, envisioned as a town square for the local community to host events, gatherings, fairs and performances.

Architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) is leading the landscape design together with Chicago studios Site Design Group and Living Habitats. The complex will feature walking paths, play areas, athletic facilities and a sledging hill.

“The Obama Presidential Center will be a new landmark for the South Side and an economic engine for the city of Chicago – drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, creating thousands of new jobs on the South Side – and will help to continue the revitalisation of historic Jackson Park,” the Obamas’ statement continues. [It] will be a living, working campus – an ongoing project where we will shape, together, what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century.”


Obama Presidential Center promenade


Obama Presidential Center lawn


Obama Presidential Center plaza


Obama Presidential Center gardens


Obama Presidential Center museum tower

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent the last ten years working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on

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