Chicago Prize

The Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) has revealed the winners of its fourteenth annual Chicago Prize Competition – The Barack Obama Presidential Library – following Chicago’s recent selection as one of three cities being considered to host the presidential library. Columbia University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago all made the list of potential locations for the library. The president is a Hawaii native, attended Columbia and taught law at the University of Chicago. He still maintains a home in Chicago.



All images courtesy of Chicago Architectural Club


Budget costs are anticipated in the $500 million range.




The CAC competition drew designs from across the country. The winning entries propose to house a collection of artifacts and documents relating to the president’s life and provide a center for community programs to enhance the local economy. Contestants were asked to consider the building’s context within the city of Chicago to foster learning and progress, but also stimulate discussion. CAC did not specify the library’s programming, to encourage creative concept from participating architecture teams.
Ultimately, a distinguished panel selected two winners and three honorable mentions emerged from the competition. The winning proposals are as follows:
Design Team: Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang
Design Team: Aras Burak Sen




The first proposal by Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang is a floating ring straddling the Chicago River, with elevated pathways leading visitors through six sections of exhibitions, including early life and career, legislative career, presidential campaigns, presidency, public image, family and personal life. Six parallel tracks would allow visitors to examine different aspects of the president’s life simultaneously. The roof offers a fifth elevation, and uses graphic design to highlight President Obama’s extraordinary career.




The second proposal by Aras Burak Sen has been conceived as a giant orb with numerous voids puncturing the sphere’s curved façade. Eight levels of differing heights incorporate openings designed to offer specific views of Chicago. Each level archives a single year of Obama’s two terms as president. An open-air amphitheater at the base of the structure would provide Chicagoans with a public forum for free speech. The ground floor of the library is shaped like a peace sign to represent the message of hope that brought the president to office, and to serve as a bridge connecting the three riverbanks. The design team explains that the peace sign shape changes on each level, representing the distortion of hope over time.


The Barack Obama Foundation has announced that the site selection will be finalized in early 2015.