by Jerry ElengicalMay 25, 2021
Competition finalists Henning Larsen, Studio Gang, and Snøhetta recently revealed their proposals for the upcoming Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota. Shortlisted from 12 firms, the international architectural practices are competing to design a presidential library and museum for one of the most intriguing national figures of the United States of America. The three unique approaches succeeded in understanding the local community, responding to the ecology of the North Dakotan Badlands, and embracing the principle values of the life of former US president Theodore Roosevelt.
Henning Larsen's proposal
Copenhagen-established Henning Larsen’s design is guided by the rich scenery of the Badlands and Medora’s resilient community. The landscape and building are fused into one living system, extending itself from the site’s intricate geology. The design seamlessly immerses the visitors into the historically significant context and the elemental splendour of the Badlands.
Four volumes that mimic the landscape make up the Library building that captures exhilarating views of the surrounding buttes, rivers and grazing lands. A tower, called the Legacy Beacon, hosts a fluid threshold space over which visitors can cross into Theodore Roosevelt National Park. A sloping spiral path leads into the exhibition level, formed by the four volumes linking underground. Here, a central hearth studs the path, entitled The Hero’s Journey, along which visitors can experience the life, work and legacy of the former president (1901–1909).
The Library intimately connects visitors to the surroundings and reveals the deep cultural and ecological history of the region Roosevelt was so fond of. “The landscape, the people – and the spirit they are both imbued with – is unique, rich, and indomitable,” says Michael Sørensen, design lead and Partner at Henning Larsen. “We are honoured to be a part of Medora’s story and hope to help realise this part of its future”.
Studio Gang's 'Basecamp'
Studio Gang, based in Chicago, conceived their entry as a 'Basecamp' poised to encourage ‘greater understanding, environmental stewardship and healing’ in the setting of Roosevelt’s defining years. “Basecamp will at once draw people inward for intellectual exchange and direct them outward for physical exploration, allowing them to discover new connections with each other and the natural world,” says Jeanne Gang, the Founding Principal.
The firm’s design comprises three horseshoe-shaped elements that seemingly emerge from the earth, echoing the landscape’s rock formations that are carved by the water and wind. The building’s form envelopes the breathtaking environment, creating habitats in protected gardens and terraces. A dome-like central space shapes the soul of the Library, formed by the horseshoes reaching upwards towards each other.
Informed by the harsh conditions and the ecological resilience of the Badlands, the team devised passive and active strategies to achieve a net-zero, carbon-neutral design. An ecological restoration and management plan for the entire site has been designed to heal and review the region over time, a generous tribute to Roosevelt, who was a strong advocate of conservation.
The design proposal by Snøhetta
In the trans-disciplinary firm Snøhetta’s design, the Library is the landscape. Journeying through the Badlands, a series of buildings, pavilions and paths are stitched into the rugged condition of the site that forms the central element of the Library experience. Contemplative nooks and expansive vistas invite visitors to experience Roosevelt’s triumphs and tribulations in tandem with the landscapes that shaped his philosophies.
A knit-system of adventure paths and surrounding ridges link five distinctive pavilions to the main library building. The library’s roof elegantly extends itself into the scenery, allowing visitors to climb into stunning views of the National Park during the day and a star-studded sky at night. Large windows inside the building highlight views of the historical town and tie in with the rhythm of the interactive exhibitions.
The building’s strategic location at the edge of the butte preserves the ecology for conservation research and enhances the longevity of the region. Locally sourced and renewable material will be used alongside sophisticated energy systems to set a new standard for sustainable design in Medora. The Oslo-based firm’s harmonious approach to architecture and landscape helps visualise a promising future for Roosevelt’s conservation ethos.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation is a non-profit organisation that was formed in 2014 to plan, build and oversee operations of the Presidential Library for the 26th president. Presently, 13 Presidential Libraries are administered by the National Archives, which serve as the archives and museum for the legacy of each of the respective administrations.
The organisation released the competition brief early in December 2019, named the three finalists in late May 2020, and is scheduled to announce the winning design in September 2020. The board looks forward to many productive conversations with the community of Medora, the leadership in Billings County, and the people across North Dakota and the world.
(Text by Ankitha Gattupalli, intern at stirworld.com)