Laura Bush unveils plans for Presidential Center

Laura Bush with Bush Presidential Center modelFormer First Lady Laura Bush visited the SMU campus Nov. 18 to unveil architectural and landscaping designs for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The following account comes courtesy of The George W. Bush Presidential Center:


DALLAS–Mrs. Laura W. Bush, Architect Robert A. M. Stern and Landscape Architect Matthew Urbanski today unveiled the design of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a modern brick and limestone structure that complements the American Georgian character of the SMU campus, set within a low-maintenance, quintessentially Texas landscape.

The light-filled building is both presidential and welcoming, includes elements that evoke both Texas and Washington, and will house the three components of the George W. Bush Presidential Center: an Archive, a Museum and a policy Institute.

“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. “Laura and I are thrilled with the plans.”

“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 Mark Langdale, President of the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

Artist rendering of the Bush Presidential Center“The George W. Bush Presidential Center reflects a unique design that is appropriate in representing the first U.S. President of the 21st Century,” said R. Gerald Turner, President of Southern Methodist University. “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,” Turner said.

The building and landscape are designed to achieve LEED platinum certification and include numerous sustainable design strategies, including locally sourced building materials (several types of Texas limestone, stained pecan interior paneling), 20 percent recycled 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 percent of the irrigation needed for the site.

The building and landscape are integrated, with numerous links between indoor and outdoor spaces. Visitors to the museum will enter the building through Freedom Hall, a large, light-filled open space that will tie the different aspects of the museum experience together. On one side of Freedom Hall, visitors will be able to tour the Museum’s permanent exhibit, which will include a replica of the Oval Office as it was during President Bush’s tenure, complete with an outdoor Texas Rose Garden that mimics the proportion and scale of the White House Rose Garden. The Museum will tell the story of the presidency by examining key decisions and the core principles that defined President Bush’s service: freedom, opportunity, responsibility and compassion.

The opposite side of Freedom Hall will house the temporary exhibit space, a ceremonial courtyard and a café. The Institute portion of the building will include a conference center with a 364-seat auditorium with simultaneous translation and broadcast capabilities, along with numerous offices for scholars and a presidential suite for receptions and other functions. The Institute will have its own entrance on axis with Binkley Avenue. The Archives will be the home for the official documents and artifacts of the Bush administration, where they will be presented to the public for study and discussion.

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.

The landscape will 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 provides 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. The firm is dedicated to the idea that architecture must engage in a conversation across time, connecting the present and future with the past. Robert A.M. Stern Architects brings to the design of the George W. Bush Presidential Center significant experience with the planning and design of museums that present a contemporary architectural response to the legacy of an important American cultural figure, including the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Massachusetts; the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York; and the Museum Center at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Stern, practicing architect, teacher, and writer, is Dean of the Yale School of Architecture. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal from the Municipal Art Society of New York in 2009 and the tenth Vincent Scully Prize from the National Building Museum in 2008. In 2007 he received both the Athena Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Board of Directors’ Honor from the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America. Joining Mr. Stern in the design effort were partners Augusta Barone, Alexander P. Lamis, and Graham S. Wyatt, and project architect Jim Pearson.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects (MVVA) is known across North America and internationally for innovative landscapes that address contemporary social and environmental issues while also achieving, as with the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a timeless style that appeals to a broad range of the American public. Founded in 1982, MVVA has received numerous awards and previously worked with First Lady Laura Bush on the redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. Michael Van Valkenburgh was the 2003 recipient of the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Environmental Design and is a 1988 winner of the prestigious American Academy in Rome Prize. He has taught both full and part time at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design since 1982. The key senior staff members working on the Library with Michael are firm Principals, Laura Solano and Matthew Urbanski, and Herb Sweeney, Associate and Project Manager.

Mrs. Laura W. Bush chaired the design committee for the Bush Presidential Center. Members of the committee included: Roland Betts, Founder and Chairman of Chelsea Piers, L.P.; The Honorable Mark Langdale, President, George W. Bush Foundation; Deedie Rose, Philanthropist; Witold Rybczynski, Martin & Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism and Professor of Real Estate, University of Pennsylvania; Sidney J. Sanders, Vice President, Facilities and Construction, The Methodist Hospital System; and R. Gerald Turner, President, Southern Methodist University.

The Presidential Center will be located at Southern Methodist University, five miles north of downtown Dallas. It will occupy a 23.11-acre site on the main campus, near the corner of SMU Boulevard and North Central Expressway (U.S. Highway 75). The site is near a light rail station.


Find more links and media coverage from SMU News
Learn more about LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council
Visit the George W. Bush Presidential Center website

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