Planning for the first “truly urban” presidential library

Plans for the Obama Presidential Library to be located in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago note that such a location would be the first urban presidential library:

A helpful tipster has provided Curbed Chicago with a 32-page PDF full of renderings for a future Obama Presidential Library from the office of architectural critic/design studio leader Michael Sorkin. Who paid for said thing to be designed? We cannot say. What we do know is that the document makes the case for ” the first Presidential Center to be truly urban,” and located in Chicago, in the Woodlawn neighborhood. The document argues that Chicago, not Honolulu, is the better city to host, because,

“it is the city where the Obamas will presumably live post-presidency” and it is “where Obama made his first deep contributions in public service and the place to which he returned to begin and advance his political mission.”When it comes to a neighborhood, Sorkin argues that

“my own sense is that – far and away – the best choice would be Woodlawn, on the city’s South Side, and that several large vacant sites on 63rd Street most perfectly fit the bill.”

There are 13 presidential libraries so far, dating back to Herbert Hoover. Several are located in big cities: Dallas (Bush II), Austin (Johnson), Atlanta (Carter), and Little Rock (Clinton). But, these are Sunbelt cities which have more square mileage and are more sprawling (due to an ability to annex more land compared to Northeast and Midwest cities where annexations stopped around 1900). So, I presume the argument here is that the Obama library in Woodlawn would be in a true urban neighborhood, in Chicago, the “city of neighborhoods,” rather than a gleaming suburban-like setting.

Would Sorkin consider the former Michael Reese site, another possible option in Chicago, similarly “truly urban”?

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