Obama presidential library: University of Hawaii wants to build the Obama Presidential Center on the beach.

What a Beachside Obama Presidential Library in Hawaii Might Look Like

What a Beachside Obama Presidential Library in Hawaii Might Look Like

The Eye
Slate’s design blog.
Dec. 23 2014 1:47 PM

What a Beachside Obama Presidential Library in Hawaii Might Look Like

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Photo rendering of a design plan from Snohetta and WCIT of the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Hawaii, complete with palm trees and ocean views.

Courtesy of Snohetta and WCIT

The competition for the future site of the Obama presidential library is down to four finalists who submitted proposals earlier this month. They include the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, which offered a multisite proposal built on creating an east-west cultural and civic corridor that would focus on urban renewal in the heart of the mainland.

The underdog in the competition is the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, which has commissioned several proposals for what would be the first presidential library outside the contiguous United States. Photo renderings from two of those projects have been released on a website sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority that makes a visual case for planting the future flagship of our current commander in chief on the shores of Hawaii.

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Snohetta and WCIT's proposal includes a green roof.

Courtesy of Snohetta and WCIT

One proposal for a sleek oceanside building complex designed by Snohetta and WCIT Architecture is based around the Kumulipo, a native Hawaiian creation chant called ‘āko‘ako‘a that states that life began from a single coral polyp. “As a diverse collective of individuals growing over many generations, the notion of coral parallels the ambitions of the Presidential Center to become catalyst of thought, action, and community,” says a project description on the Snohetta website, noting that the site is atop what was once an exposed coral reef. “Much like the polyp, the Center has the unique opportunity to create a new environment that encourages assembly, provides places to congregate, and creates shared community resources.”

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Another view of the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Hawaii by Snohetta and WCIT, which takes design inspiration from coral.

Courtesy of Snohetta and WCIT

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Rendering of the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Hawaii by Snohetta and WCIT.

Courtesy of Snohetta and WCIT

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Allied Works Architecture writes in a project description that its vision for the Hawaii Presidential Center “seeks to engage the beauty of the land and culture that define the Hawaiian Islands, and to serve the mission of the Center as a space of dialogue and an agent for positive action on issues that we face as a nation and across the globe.” They add that the design concept “can be seen as the synthesis of three acts; each corresponds to specific aspects and core values of the Center: Land—‘Aina; Community—Ohana; and Integrity or Righteousness—Pono. The Center stands for the values of our democracy, the beauty of our land, and the resilience and ingenuity of our people. United under a single roof, we are reminded that we are stronger together.”

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A photo rendering of another proposed design for the Obama Presidential Center on the coast of Hawaii by Allied Works Architecture.

Courtesy of Allied Works Architecture

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A photo rendering of the proposed Obama Presidential Center on the University of Hawaii campus from Allied Works Architecture.

Courtesy of Allied Works Architecture

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A rendering of the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Hawaii by Allied Works Architecture.

Courtesy of Allied Works Architecture

The foundation coordinating the library’s construction says the president and first lady will select a site in early 2015.

Kristin Hohenadel's writing on design has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Fast Company, Vogue, Elle Decor, Lonny, and Apartment Therapy.