Skip to content

Explore the Center’s Environmentally Sustainable Design


April 21, 2021
A rendering show the Obama Presidential Museum as well as its surrounding landscape.

During his time in the White House, President Obama and his administration fought to combat climate change and protect the one planet that we’ve got for future generations. The Obama Foundation celebrates and continues to build this legacy through our plans for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park and our work to inspire, empower, and connect the next leaders of tomorrow.

From our support of young leaders who are on the front lines addressing climate change around the world to the way the Center is sustainably designed, built, and operated—the Obama Foundation is committed to doing its part. The Center will be home to a sustainable landscape brimming with new life: native plants, trees, birds, insects, and other pollinators that will grow, mature, and evolve alongside future generations.

Led by  Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Opens in a new tab , the Center’s landscape design has also been developed with the  Chicago Botanic Garden Opens in a new tab . Bringing their expertise in horticulture, science, and education to the project, the Chicago institution has played a key advisory role and has made recommendations on species that are native to and appropriate for the Chicago climate, improvements to accessibility, and other details.

We look forward to continuing our exciting work with the Chicago Botanic Garden in the future, as well as other Chicago-based organizations that prioritize caring for the environment, supporting healthy ecosystems, and engaging young people. You can learn more about our partnership with the Chicago Botanic Garden here.

This Earth Day, check out some of the eco-friendly features that will make the Obama Presidential Center a model of sustainability, from a Michelle Obama-inspired Fruit & Vegetable Garden, to solar panels that will collect energy atop the Garden Pavilion. These outdoor spaces are unlike any on the South Side of Chicago and will transform Jackson Park—a park that has long been loved but underused—into a sustainable space with global reach and local roots.

Fruit & Vegetable Garden

Mrs. Obama joins school children and chefs for the annual fall harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden

Inspired by Mrs. Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden, the Obama Presidential Center’s Fruit & Vegetable Garden will be a place where young people and community members can get their hands dirty and learn about growing fruits and vegetables. Visitors of all abilities will discover more about the composting process and their connection to the food they eat every day. The Garden will be located on the roof of the new branch of the Chicago Public Library.

Beehive & Pollinator Garden
Bees gather around a hive.

In recognition and celebration of the important role that pollinators like bees, butterflies, ants, beetles, and birds play in our food supply chain, the Fruit & Vegetable Garden will include a few bee hives for honey and educational purposes.

The Wetland Walk
A rendering of the Wetland Walk at the Obama Presidential Center.

A one-acre wetland area will capture and treat stormwater and feature a Wetland Walk that threads through the area and offers a unique environment with seating, a tree canopy, and a place for children to play. The area will feature seating built out of large stone blocks that can be used for classes, small gatherings, or simply as a spot to stop and enjoy the park.

Children's Play Area
A rendering of the Playground, featuring play structures and fun for all ages.

The Children’s Play Area will feature a giant playground with innovative recreation equipment for children of all ages. The design of the play area celebrates the natural environment of Jackson Park, with lagoon and woodland-themed features to stir imaginations and encourage exploration. It will offer four seasons of play with plenty of seating and shade for adults.

Sustainable Design
A rendering of the Museum courtyard at the Obama Presidential Center.

All buildings and facilities that are part of the Obama Presidential Center will be  LEED v4 Platinum Opens in a new tab SITES Silver Opens in a new tab , and  ILFI Zero Energy Opens in a new tab  certified. Composting stations will be located throughout the campus and solar panels will be installed on the roof of the Garden Pavilion, helping the Center operate as a carbon neutral institution.

Educate and Inspire Action
A group of young people gathered around a table are seen from above.

At the Museum, visitors will learn about the Obama Administration’s work to combat climate change, from the Paris Agreement to protecting more acres of public land and water than any other administration in history. Visitors can draw inspiration from changemakers who are leading on environmental justice, conservation, and combating climate change—then leave with the tools and resources they need to take action in their own communities.