The Obama Presidential Center
The Obama Presidential Center represents a historic opportunity to build a world-class museum and public gathering space that celebrates our nation’s first African American President and First Lady on the South Side of Chicago.
In September 2021, we broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center, which is designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects + Partners. It will be a place to reflect and grow, connect and create; to tap into your own sense of purpose and discover the change you want to make in the world. It will be a place to honor history while inspiring young people to write chapters of their own.
And it will do all that while creating jobs, driving economic opportunity, and unlocking the potential that has always existed on the South Side. By tapping into the boundless talent of neighborhoods throughout Chicago, it will become a campus for the community, built in partnership with the community.
An Embodiment of Hope
When President Obama honored the brave marchers who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, he delivered a speech that not only captured his idea of what America should be, but one that called on each generation to take up the baton and build on the legacies of those who came before. A portion of that meaningful speech will appear on the exterior of the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side of Chicago. Watch the video to see the words that were selected:
The Museum building will be a new landmark for the South Side, welcoming visitors to Jackson Park and marking the Center as an historic civic destination. The Museum building’s design embodies the idea of ascension—of a movement upward from the grassroots. Its form is inspired by the idea of four hands coming together; a recognition that many hands shape a place.
At the top of the Museum sits the Sky Room, a space that will offer visitors a chance to reflect, with extraordinary panoramic views of Lake Michigan to the East, the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago to the North, and the South Side of Chicago to the West and South.
Inside, exhibits will explore the fullness of the American story—from the promise of our founding documents to the movements that challenged us to live up to them. The Museum exhibits will tell the story of the volunteers who powered the campaign toward history, and will examine the eight years of progress, setback, and hope that followed.
We are currently seeking artifacts for potential display at the Museum. If you have an artifact you’d like to submit for consideration, you can learn more here.
The Winter Garden
Named in honor of Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton
The Winter Garden at the Obama Presidential Center will be a bright, welcoming space full of light and warmth for anyone to enjoy. It will be a place to gather, connect, and reveal the boundless potential that lies within each of us.
President and Mrs. Obama are proud to honor the memory of Hadiya Pendleton—a Chicago teen who was shot and killed on the South Side of Chicago, just eight days after performing with her majorette squad during President Obama’s second presidential inauguration.
The Forum and Plaza
Resources to Serve the South Side
The Forum building will serve as a place to welcome the local community—a commons designed to bring people together. Largely built into the landscape of Jackson Park, the Forum will house numerous collaborative and creative spaces, including an auditorium, a broadcast and recording studio, flexible learning and meeting spaces, and a restaurant. It will also provide plenty of spaces for people to relax, eat, do their homework, or play a game of chess. The Forum is designed to serve as a hub for our neighbors, so these spaces will mostly be free and open to the public.
Just outside the Forum and Museum buildings, at the heart of the Center, will be a public plaza that serves as a place for the Foundation and our neighbors to host informal and planned gatherings alike. It will feature public artwork and host outdoor performances, markets, and fairs.
Where Learning Comes to Life
A new branch of the Chicago Public Library will feature interactive digital media spaces and amenities for children, informational and vocational resources for adults, and a reading room for all to enjoy. This unique partnership is the first of its kind and will provide almost every South Side resident with access to a public library within walking distance. The branch will also have a garden on its roof. Similar to the garden that Mrs. Obama planted at the White House, it will be a place where young people and community members can get their hands dirty and learn about growing fruits and vegetables—and there will even be a few bee hives for honey. You can learn more about the Chicago Public Library branch and interactive studio here.
The Park and Activity Center
Where the Community Comes Together
The park surrounding the Center will offer play areas, walking paths, and a sledding hill, all connected by a long pedestrian promenade that joins the Center to Jackson Park and runs alongside its beautiful and historic lagoons.
And it wouldn’t be the Obama Presidential Center without a place to shoot some hoops. The fourth main building on the campus will be the Program, Athletic, and Activity Center. The facility will be a home for recreation, community programming, and events.
The Women's Garden and Wetland Walk
Where Families Can Find Nature
Jackson Park’s historic Women’s Garden will be restored with plantings, pathways, and seating. It will also become more accessible by converting the roads surrounding it back to parkland.
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.
The Children's Play Area and Great Lawn
Fun for all seasons
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 parents and adults.
The Great Lawn is a place for sledding in the winter, picnics in the summer, and to gather for movies in the park. The gentle slope of the site offers opportunities for activities year-round, and it will be the perfect place to get a view of Jackson Park’s beautiful lagoons.
Bring the Obama Presidential Center to Life
Your contribution today will help us build a Presidential Center that will revitalize the South Side of Chicago, unite a new generation of leaders to move us forward, and work together to change history once more.Donate