Henning Larsen, Studio Gang, Snøhetta reveal Theodore Roosevelt Library design

The three firms compete for the design of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota, which will be a reflection of the enduring spirit of the late US president.

by STIRworld Published on : Aug 19, 2020

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.

The mesmerising landscape of the Badlands in Medora | Theodore Roosevelt Library Foundation | STIRworld
The mesmerising landscape of the Badlands in Medora Image: Courtesy of Theodore Roosevelt Library Foundation

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.

  • Henning Larsen’s design becomes one with the landscape | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Henning Larsen’s design becomes one with the landscape Image: Courtesy of MIR
  • The structure complements the wild landscape | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    The structure complements the wild landscape Image: Courtesy of MIR

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).

  • Expansive windows capture the dynamic patterns of light | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Expansive windows capture the dynamic patterns of light Image: Courtesy of MIR
  • The proposed cafe in the premises | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    The proposed cafe in the premises Image: Courtesy of Portraits To Be Built

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”.

  • Entry to the exhibition space | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Entry to the exhibition space Image: Courtesy of Portraits To Be Built
  • A spiraling path leads down into the exhibition space | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    A spiraling path leads down into the exhibition space Image: Courtesy of Henning Larsen

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.

Studio Gang's design approaches the Library from the Maah Daah Hey trail | Basecamp, Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Studio Gang | STIRworld
Studio Gang's design approaches the Library from the Maah Daah Hey trail Image: Courtesy of Studio Gang

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.

  • Birds eye view of Studio Gang’s ‘Basecamp’ | Basecamp, Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Studio Gang | STIRworld
    Birds eye view of Studio Gang’s ‘Basecamp’ Image: Courtesy of Studio Gang
  • Model of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library as proposed by Studio Gang| Basecamp, Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Studio Gang | STIRworld
    Model of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library as proposed by Studio Gang Image: Courtesy of Studio Gang

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 expansive roofscape offers thrilling views | Basecamp, Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Studio Gang | STIRworld
    The expansive roofscape offers thrilling views Image: Courtesy of Studio Gang
  • The exhibition space as proposed by Studio Gang | Basecamp, Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Studio Gang | STIRworld
    The exhibition space as proposed by Studio Gang Image: Courtesy of Studio Gang

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.

  • The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library by Snøhetta merges seamlessly into the landscape | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Snøhetta | STIRworld
    The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library by Snøhetta merges seamlessly into the landscape Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta
  • Adventure trails take visitors on a journey through the site | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Snøhetta | STIRworld
    Adventure trails take visitors on a journey through the site Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta

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.

  • Expansive views from the roof | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Snøhetta | STIRworld
    Expansive views from the roof Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta
  • Open spaces surrounding the library building | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Snøhetta | STIRworld
    Open spaces surrounding the library building Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta

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.

  • Inside the library | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Snøhetta | STIRworld
    Inside the library Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta
  • Large windows highlighing the views of the town | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library design by Snøhetta | STIRworld
    Large windows highlighting the views of the town Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta

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)

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