Obama Library: Crowdsourcing Public Design


On this Presidents Day, between the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington, BuiltWorlds, in association with Arcbazar, AutodeskGreenApple Campus and Forum8, is proud to announce a fun new educational initiative that may help to shape the legacy of another U.S. president, Barack Obama.


In December, the Barack Obama Foundation announced that it had narrowed its field of candidates to seven prominent architects who will compete to design the upcoming Obama Presidential Center and Library on Chicago’s South Side. We say, “Let them have their fun.”

While the official competition proceeds apace, before that high-stakes contest gets heated, we plan to have some instructional fun of our own. In a land known for an earlier Illinois President’s “of the people, by the people, and for the people” ethic, we ask, “What sort of Presidential Library would the people design?”

To engage the people, we have launched an online, interactive, international design competition aimed at attracting your ideas, inspired by students, and architecture aficionados and practitioners across the globe, from Chicago toShanghai, Atlanta to Ankara, Los Angeles to Lima. With the enthusiastic support of crowd-sourced architecture competition host Arcbazar, innovative STEM advocate and entrepreneur GreenApple Campus, collaborative software provider Autodesk, and 3D modeling and VR specialist Forum8, we are now soliciting concepts, drawings, and videos of what you think this new contribution to Chicago’s civic landscape should be.

The competition page is now “live” on Arbazar’s website and can be viewed here.

“We are very excited about this international contest and see it as a wonderful way to interact with young designers across the U.S. and around the world,” says BuiltWorlds cofounder Matt Abeles.

Now in just its fifth year, Boston-based Arcbazar already has established extraordinary reach overseas. And it is now reaching out to everyone it knows.

“We challenge all designers, from everywhere, to unlock their design talent, and generate visionary architectural and urban design schemes for this extraordinary, one-time opportunity to shape our President’s library on the South Side of Chicago,” adds Dr. Imdat As, an architect and entrepreneur who founded Arcbazar in 2011 specifically to help more architects find more work.

Our aim was then, and is now, to democratize traditional architecture by leveling the playing field for all designers.

Although the results, of course, are non-binding on the real competition, there nevertheless will be judges, winners, cash prizes and attendant publicity within the AEC industry. The public also will be encouraged to take part in the contest and vote for their favorites all along the way. In total, $10,000 in prizes will be awarded, including $4,200 for the judges’ 1st Prize, and $3,000 for the Voters Choice Award. GreenApple Campus and Autodesk also will also present separate, non-monetary Student Awards.

“Our goal is to ignite innovation and spur collaborative creativity among aspiring students,” says Dee Guiney, founder and president of GreenApple. “We believe the competition will accomplish these goals and inspire Chicago students to design a Presidential Library representing one of their own.”

Following the posted guidelines, all submissions must be received by May 10, 2016.

Winners will be selected and announced June 16, 2016, at a prize ceremony and public celebration atBuiltWorlds’ new headquarters in Chicago’s West Loop.

For all of the competition guidelines and design specifications, click here.

Appropriately enough, beneath all the fun and excitement of this exercise is an appreciation of the melting pot of talents, ideas and dreams that have always helped to fuel the furnace of this great nation. “Projects such as these help to define the legacy of a nation, so they become part of their treasures,” claims Abeles. Adds As, “When it comes to public design, we all feel there should be less bureaucracy, more transparency, and, most importantly, more involvement from the public.”

Crowd-sourcing has become the best way to ensure that the widest public voice is still clearly heard.

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