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Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects Picked to Design Obama Presidential Library

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects was one of two firms chosen to work on the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, the Obama Foundation announced Thursday.

The husband-and-wife architectural firm, based in New York and founded in 1986, will join Interactive Design Architects in Chicago to lead the design of the center, which will include a library for President Barack Obama's archives and a museum focused on his eight-year presidency, the foundation said in a statement.

National Medal of Arts and Humanities
Billie Tsien and Tod Williams accepting the 2013 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. Photos by Jocelyn Augustino

Jackson Park and Washington Park on Chicago's South Side are both possible sites for the center, the Obama Foundation said. The project could be completed by 2020 or 2021, according to NBC Chicago. As many as 15 to 20 firms might also be hired to work on specialty areas of the center's design, the foundation said.

"Tod and Billie's past projects display an incredible commitment to scale, craft and materiality, and their proposal demonstrated an equally genuine commitment to also carefully balance an understanding and respect for the history and potential of the South Side, the Olmstead and Vaux-designed park setting and Chicago's overall architectural legacy," Robbin Cohen, executive director of the Obama Foundation, said in a statement.

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Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects were chosen from a shortlist of seven firms that in December were asked to submit proposals. More than 140 firms worldwide had originally applied to work on the center.

Image: Architecture Award honoree, Billie Tsien attends The Fashion Group International's 21st Annual Night of Stars at Cipriani's 42nd Street on Oct. 28, 2004 in New York City.
Architecture Award honoree, Billie Tsien attends The Fashion Group International's 21st Annual Night of Stars at Cipriani's 42nd Street on Oct. 28, 2004 in New York City. Evan Agostini / Getty Images file

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. But Williams and Tsien, whom Obama awarded the 2013 National Medal of Arts, said in a statement Thursday that they are deeply moved by the Obama Foundation's mission and how the center can empower that mission.

"It is a joy, an honor, and a responsibility to create a place that reflects the optimism and integrity of the president and the first lady," Williams and Tsien said. "This has been a transformative presidency and we will work to make a center that embodies and expands the Obamas' vision."

Williams and Tsien's studio designs institutional, academic, civic, and residential work. Williams, 73, hired Tsien, 66, in 1977 after she had just graduated from architecture school, and they formed an architectural partnership nine years later.

Their works include the Barnes Foundation, an art museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at the University of California, Berkeley; and the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan, completed in 2001 but demolished 13 years later by the Museum of Modern Art, which bought the building.

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