Henning Larsen has unveiled its design for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota. The design is among the three finalists (together with Snøhetta and Studio Gang) and is inspired by the rich landscapes of the North Dakotan Badlands, united by Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy, and rooted in the community of Medora. Take a look at the complete story after the jump.
From the architects: In a single, dark February day in 1884, Theodore Roosevelt’s mother and wife passed within hours of each other – an event he commemorated in his diary: “The light has gone out of my life.” Deep in grief, he journeyed from New York City to Medora, North Dakota, where his time in the Badlands would come to transform and define him as the man, conservationist, and American civic icon we remember today.
The Henning Larsen + Nelson Byrd Woltz design team made the same journey across the United States in early June 2020 to visit the site for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. Our vision for the project is rooted in the landscape and community that Roosevelt came to love – a landscape and community as rich and resilient today as it was when Roosevelt lived in it nearly 150 years ago.
“There is a unique and awe-inspiring beauty to everything about the Badlands that you simply cannot experience anywhere else,” says Michael Sørensen, design lead and Partner at Henning Larsen.
Our vision is deeply tied to this landscape. “The design fuses the landscape and building into one living system emerging from the site’s geology,” explains Thomas Woltz, Principal and owner of Nelson Byrd Woltz. “The design fuses the landscape and building into one living system emerging from the site’s geology. The buildings frame powerful landscape views to the surrounding buttes and the visitor experience is seamlessly connected to the rivers, trails, and grazing lands surrounding the Library.”
The building is comprised of four volumes that peek up from the butte, each a formal reference to the geography of the Badlands. With the tower (the Legacy Beacon) a visible landmark, the library becomes a hub for community and fluid threshold over which visitors can cross into the sprawling majesty of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The four volumes link underground along a continuous narrative trail where Roosevelt’s legacy – the roots of the project – is exhibited and experienced.
“Theodore Roosevelt famously stated ‘I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.’ After just the small amount of time we’ve been able to spend in Medora, it’s clear to us what he meant. The landscape, the people – and the spirit they are both imbued with – is unique, rich, and indomitable,” says Sørensen. “We’re honoured to be a part of Medora’s story and hope to help realize this part of its future.”
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation is a prestigious and historic commission; presidential libraries in recent years have been elevated from simple archives into complex community hubs and local landmarks.
The competition, run by the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, selected three finalists to further develop designs in late May, 2020. The winning design will be selected in late September 2020.
Images are courtesy of Henning Larsen
Find more projects by Henning Larsen Architects: henninglarsen.com