Bush Presidential Library Unveiled

November 20, 2009

The George W. Bush Presidential Center has been designed to achieve LEED platinum certification and will include numerous sustainable design strategies, including locally sourced and 20% recycled building materials, solar hot water panels, native landscaping to reduce irrigation, and a storm-water management system that conveys, cleanses, and collects surface runoff and roof rainwater and will provide 50% of the irrigation needed for the site.

When it opens in 2013, the new center will be the 14th "presidential library," as they are commonly known, and will be located at Southern Methodist University, five miles north of downtown Dallas. A library will constitute an integral part of the entire complex. The design is "a modern brick and limestone structure that complements the American Georgian character of the SMU campus, set within a low-maintenance, quintessentially Texas landscape," said a news release announcing the unveiling.

Former First Lady Laura Bush, architect Robert A. M. Stern, and landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh unveiled the design of the Presidential Center November 18 during a news briefing at SMU. Former U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica Mark Langdale, president of the Bush Foundation and member of the design committee, and SMU President R. Gerald Turner also answered questions following the briefing. Renderings and models of the building and landscape design were on display.

"I applaud the work of Robert Stern and Michael Van Valkenburgh in designing a building and landscape that will capture the dignity of the office of the presidency, while at the same time being warm and welcoming to visitors," President George W. Bush said at the unveiling.

"The building and landscape evoke elements of the full span of George and Laura Bush's life and service, from their ranch in Crawford to the White House, and help us share the story of a couple committed to public service based on the core principles of freedom, opportunity, responsibility and compassion," said Langdale.

The plan for the center "reflects a unique design that is appropriate in representing the first U.S. president of the 21st century," Turner noted. "At the same time, it reflects major components of SMU's collegiate Georgian architectural tradition of nearly 100 years. As a modern expression of our heritage, this facility will be a welcome addition to the stately buildings and grounds that make the SMU campus a special place for learning," he said.

The architects hope that the landscape will be an attraction in and of itself, with seasonable displays in the wildflower meadow; large tree-shaded lawns for sitting, picnicking, or playing; numerous gardens and courtyards; tall-grass prairie with seasonal wildflowers; and savannah and woodland clearings that provide a range of native habitat for butterflies, birds, and other wildlife species.

They also want the landscape to function as an urban park that will engage a broad range of users, including library and special-event visitors; SMU students, faculty, and staff; and the University Park community. It will probide numerous spaces for events and gatherings, including performances in the outdoor amphitheater and intramural sports on the west lawn.

Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP, is a 220-person firm of architects, interior designers, and supporting staff based in New York City. The firm is "dedicated to the idea that architecture must engage in a conversation across time, connecting the present and future with the past." The firm also designed the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York; and the Museum Center at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.


Be the Bridge

Librarians can span the gap between students and their instructors