Obama Foundation Picks Its Chicago Ground Team

We now know who going to do the grounds for the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side.

President Barack Obama

The Obama Foundation has chosen Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Site Design Group, and Living Habitats to be the landscape architecture team for the south side’s most anticipated museum in decades.

You may remember New York’s MVVA from such Chicago hits as Maggie Daley Park and the 606.  Chicago’s Site Design Group is known for turning the old Stearns Quarry in Bridgeport into Henry Palmisano Park.  And Living Habitats, also from Chicago, spreads its wings at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum.

Press release follows.


Chicago, IL – Today, the Obama Foundation announced the landscape architecture team for the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). Working with the OPC’s previously announced architects, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and InterActive Design Architects, a team comprised of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), Site Design Group, and Living Habitats will serve as the project’s landscape architects.

MVVA will lead the landscape architect team in partnership with Site Design Group and Living Habitats, two Chicago-based firms. MVVA has led the design for many award-winning civic projects including Maggie Daley Park in Chicago and Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York. Site Design Group is a minority-owned firm with a successful track record of working on Chicago Park District projects in neighborhoods across the city. Living Habitats is a women-owned firm with an abiding commitment to sustainable and environmentally-integrated design work.

David Simas, Chief Executive Officer of the Obama Foundation, said, “We are thrilled to announce that MVVA, Site Design Group, and Living Habitats will serve as the landscape architects for the Obama Presidential Center. This highly skilled and diverse team stood out in their commitment to creating accessible public spaces that honor their environment, community, and history. We are confident that together with the Foundation, Tod Williams Bill Tsien Architects and InterActive Design Architects, this team will help build a Presidential Center that is more than just a library or museum, but an innovative center that inspires communities and individuals to take on our biggest challenges.”

“We are incredibly excited to be a part of this historic project. Together with Site Design Group and Living Habitats and, of course, with TWBTA and InterActive Design, we are committed to creating an OPC that honors the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted and at the same time is accessible, inspirational and joyful,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh, President and CEO of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Ernie Wong, Founder of Site Design Group, said: “Growing up in the Hyde Park / Kenwood community has infused in me a sense of responsibility to the South Side and the city as a whole. We are honored to partner with MVVA, Living Habitats and especially the Obama Foundation to realize an incredible asset for Jackson Park and this strong and vibrant community. We look forward to helping this talented team forge the future of this institution as part of Jackson Park, reflecting the rich history and traditions of the South Side and watching the OPC stand as a beacon for the people of this great country.”

“At Living Habitats, we are inspired by the Obamas and their commitment to community and public service. We are excited to collaborate with MVAA and Site Design Group to create a Presidential Center that reflects the Obamas’ values, especially as it relates to sustainability and the natural environment,” said Heidi Natura, President and Founder of Living Habitats.

In October, the Obama Foundation announced the formation of an Inclusion Council, led by local leaders to ensure that the work of the Foundation is informed by a diverse set of viewpoints and is in line with the values of diversity and inclusion. In July, the Obama Foundation announced Jackson Park as the site of the future Obama Presidential Center. The Foundation considers the South Side community a full partner in the development and construction of the OPC, including in the integration of the OPC into Jackson Park. In June, the Obama Foundation announced that Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners and Interactive Design Architects will lead the design phase of the Obama Presidential Center.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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