Former President Barack Obama is building a shrine to himself, at an estimated cost of a billion dollars.
Of course, that’s what all former presidents do — construct a modern-day Egyptian pyramid to house their many artifacts (will the Blackberry Barry wore on his belt be there? Wait and see!).
Presidential libraries usually hold the official and personal papers of the president, and scholars make pilgrimages there to study their wisdom. (Well, Obama’s won’t. There’ll be a “digital archive” of his records, no hard-copy manuscripts and letters to thumb through.)
But the plans got much weirder this week as details of the Chicago library emerged.
There will be a museum, of course, but also a basketball court, maybe a room for yoga classes, and a “test kitchen” to teach visitors “about the full production cycle of nutritious food” (likely pushed by former first lady Michelle Obama, whose signature issue during her tenure was a campaign for healthy eating).
There will also be a place for meditation (which might be kinda’ hard in Chicago with all the bullets whizzing by).
The details have been hard to come by, but the Chicago Tribune reported some on Monday.
There were details that offered hints about where things have gone since we saw the initial plans for a three-building complex — an obelisklike tower housing a museum, a forum building and what could be a small branch of the Chicago Public Library — in Jackson Park’s northwest corner.
The tower’s top floor could be a space for reflection, free and open to the public, with views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding city, including the Collegiate Gothic spires of the University of Chicago. The museum itself, a multilevel facility with exhibition spaces lodged in the tower’s midsection, would be open only to visitors who buy tickets.
Obama, the architects said, wants an outdoor plaza framed by the three buildings to be able to host food trucks. A fourth building south of the main cluster, an athletic center, would house facilities including a basketball court where the former president could shoot hoops. A display board showed pictures suggesting the center could also include a dance studio and a room for yoga classes. The athletic center, according to the display board, “will offer visitors opportunities to enjoy neighborhood athletic activities.”
Other display boards pictured a recording studio in the forum building that would provide “a place of creative expression” for the center’s visitors; an outdoor garden that would pay homage to Michelle Obama’s White House garden; and a test kitchen that would teach visitors “about the full production cycle of nutritious food” — a prominent cause for the former first lady.
Tribune columnist Ron Grossman doesn’t like the plan one bit.
My problem isn’t the design, though the centerpiece is a tower, heavy around the midsection and tapering to a narrow top and bottom. To me, it evokes a soft-boiled egg in a giant eggcup.
What brought me up short was a space in the adjoining Forum building labeled “test kitchen.” Presumably that reflects Michelle Obama’s war on junk food. The museum’s champions similarly suggest it could host yoga classes.
President Obama, is that how you want to be remembered? As the healthy-eating and meditation-advocating president?
We guess so. It’s all a bit weird, but maybe that’s a perfect way to memorialize Obama.