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Obama Foundation Announces Landscape Architect for Obama Presidential Center

January 30, 2017 at 10:22 AM CST

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 Billie 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.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of New York

MVVA believes that landscape plays a critical role in shaping a positive experience of place — both found and designed—and that a strong sense of place helps enhance everyday experience, healthy communities, and quality of life which is at the heart of a livable city. Their work encompasses a range of scales and landscape types, from the design of large public parks, and university campuses, down to intimate gardens and private landscapes. As a firm, MVAA prioritizes client vision, and is are proud to have many long-time and repeat clients including Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, Princeton University, Harvard University, Wellesley College, The Menil Collection and Waterfront Toronto. MVVA’s projects have received many of the highest professional honors for design excellence and for innovation, including: the Brendan Gill Prize from the Municipal Art Society of New York in 2010 for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, given to a work of art that best captures the energy and spirit of New York City. MVVA was selected as the Firm of the Year by the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2016.


Founded in 1990, site design group, ltd. (site) is a landscape architecture, urban design, and architecture firm based in Chicago, Illinois, and known for their leadership and innovation, commitment to design excellence, and beautifully detailed public urban spaces. site is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). As landscape architects, designers, arborists, architects, creative thinkers, and engaged citizens, site’s diverse staff are enlivened by their surroundings and strive to produce creative spaces that inspire, restore, and bring communities together. Using functional systems coupled with “out of the box” strategies, site transforms complex design challenges into places that clearly reflect identity and are strong statements of beautiful and functional spaces.

Living Habitats

Founded in 2001, Living Habitats is an environmental planning, landscape architecture, and ecology practice in Chicago, Illinois. Living Habitats is a certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). Comprised of landscape architects, designers, and ecologists, Living Habitats actively promotes an appreciation for the complex beauty of the natural environment and they have an irrepressible passion for making this resource accessible and tangible in their work. Living Habitats finds that the best solution is one that is responsive to clients’ needs and demonstrates mindfulness for our environment. It is through their collaboration with communities, clients, and other professionals that they have created resourceful and innovative solutions that are both sustainable and resilient.