Landscape Designers Chicago
The Obama Foundation on Monday named a team of landscape architects for the Obama Presidential Center, to be led by the designer of Chicago's 606 trail and Maggie Daley Park.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, based in New York, will head the team, which will include two Chicago landscape design firms: Site Design Group, headed by Ernie Wong, and Living Habitats, whose president is Heidi Natura.
The landscape architects will work with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects of New York, whom former President Barack Obama last year selected as the architects for his presidential center.
"This highly skilled and diverse team stood out in their commitment to creating accessible public spaces that honor their environment, community and history, " David Simas, the foundation's chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Landscape issues represent a significant, potentially controversial challenge for the presidential center, which will be built in the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Jackson Park.
Heavily trafficked roads slice through the park, undercutting Olmsted's vision of a serene pleasure ground.
Last week, the Tribune reported that the foundation has floated the idea of closing a stretch of one of those roads, Cornell Drive, to create a campuslike zone between the presidential center and the nearby Museum of Science and Industry.
But some community leaders reacted negatively to the idea, saying it would worsen traffic congestion on other streets and isolate neighborhoods around the center.
The center, which is expected to cost at least $500 million, is to be built in the park's northwest corner along Stony Island Avenue. Its principal features will be archives and a museum devoted to the Obama presidency.
To select the landscape architects, the foundation requested proposals from several firms around the country, a foundation spokeswoman said.
In addition to The 606, which encompasses an elevated trail and chain of parks on Chicago's Northwest Side, and Maggie Daley Park, a children-oriented venue next to Millennium Park, Van Valkenburgh's Chicago projects include a future park at the under-construction One Bennett Park residential tower in Streeterville.
The landscape architect's best-known recent project is New York's Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Wong's Site Design Group has designed Chinatown's Ping Tom Park along the Chicago River and the Henry Palmisano Park in Bridgeport, which turned an old quarry and landfill into a naturalistic landscape. The firm is a certified minority business enterprise.
Living Habitats is a certified women-owned business enterprise composed of landscape architects, designers and ecologists.