Plans revised for 'Obama Presidential Center': Taller, uglier, and a little bit less white
A faint odor of desperation accompanies the latest revised plans for the monument to the greatness of Barack Hussein Obama planned for Chicago. You see, the City of Chicago and its mayor, Rahm Emanuel, have to approve the plans and the appropriation of park land designed by Frederick Law Olmstead – America's greatest landscape architect – to memorialize America's First Black President (unless you count Bill Clinton). The effort to combine grandiosity with the appearance of community responsiveness is a tough challenge for anyone, it must be conceded.
The failure of the citizenry to unite in praise and awe – there has been a firestorm of criticism – has led Obama Foundation officials to go and hire as their lawyer Langdon Neal, a man described in 2016 by the Chicago Sun-Times as the "Chicago machine's $99[-]million man," "one of the city's most politically connected lawyers," who "has made a fortune helping City Hall and other governments condemn land for schools, police stations, McCormick Place, O'Hare Airport expansion." A few years ago, the Chicago Reader wrote:
It's not literally true that Langdon Neal and his law firm are involved in every major political deal in Chicago. But sometimes it seems that way.
Just the kind of guy to overcome the community organizations (savor the irony!) who have objected to the grandiose monument that would steal park land and threaten a critical bird habitat. Oh, and by the way, in addition to being a fixer for land developers, Langdon Neal is chairman of the Cook County Board of Elections.
Following publication of an open letter by over a hundred faculty of the University of Chicago, which neighbors the monument, the Obama Foundation submitted revised plans to the City of Chicago, and, believe it or not, the changes make the cenotaph-like tower building even uglier. Here is the revised version, which features a tower 57 feet taller than the original plan. Instead of the sheer white concrete façade, straight out of the brutalism school of architecture that was briefly popular decades ago, a little texture has been added, and the wide hips of the original have been narrowed. The nearly all white nature of the building is broken up by texture and color, too.
Here is the very white original:
A "presidential library" may be good enough for every other president since Harry Truman, but the monument to Barack Obama planned for his adopted hometown of Chicago won't serve as a depository for his presidential records and be subject to the demands of the National Archives. The Obama Foundation, which will be fundraising hundreds of millions of dollars for the monument from sources yet to be identified, and which oddly enough for a tax-exempt nonprofit uses the same logo as the Obama campaign, calls the project's goal "a world-class cultural attraction on the South Side" that will feature such world-class amenities as a test kitchen and basketball courts.
One feature of the project which has received relatively little attention is the inclusion of a "world-class" (that same expression again!) golf course bearing the name of and some vague affiliation with Tiger Woods. Golf Digest noted three weeks ago:
This time last year Tiger Woods announced he had signed on to an ambitious new project endorsed by President Obama and embraced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the South Side of Chicago, one that called for a world-class public golf facility to sit adjacent to the Obama Presidential Center. But 12 months following the unveiling, the Chicago Tribune reports that the endeavor has failed to make much progress.
According to Mike Keiser, whose resume boasts visionary properties like Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley, bureaucracy is to blame.
The community organizers are less impressed. The group Jackson Park Birding writes:
Jackson Park, on the South Side of Chicago, is an important stopping point for migratory birds. Its size (over 500 acres), habitat[,] and location along the western shore of Lake Michigan make it possible to view over 250 species of birds through the seasons.
But the existing habitat faces an uncertain future. The Obama Presidential Center will soon be built on the western edge of the Park, [and] there are plans to remove large numbers of trees from the [p]ark to upgrade its golf course, merge it with the nearby South Shore Golf Course, and to expand the driving range west of Bobolink Meadow. The importance of Jackson Park's habitat must be taken into account as these projects are planned, especially given global threats to migratory bird population[.]
Hey, you can't make a monument omelet without breaking a few bird eggs.