Bush library plans unveiled

Drawings depict the plans for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, to be located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Drawings depict the plans for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, to be located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Photo by Robert A.M.SternArchitects.

The public came one step closer, on Wednesday at 1 p.m. central time, to imagining how a library, a museum and a policy institute bearing the name of former president George W. Bush ’68 would look.

At a press conference in Dallas, former First Lady Laura Bush, Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 and landscape architect Matthew Urbanski of Michael van Valkenburgh Associates unveiled the plans for the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Construction is set to begin next fall.

Robert A.M.SternArchitects

The 225,000-square-foot center will use red brick and limestone to fit in with the SMU campus’s traditional Georgian architecture. But the building itself is decidedly not Georgian, Stern said.

“We were asked to build a building that would be sympathetic to the campus, which I would have done anyhow,” Stern said. “But it’s a modern building in feel.”

Laura Bush, an alumna of SMU, chaired the design committee that selected Robert A.M. Stern Architects for the project.

“She is the most wonderful person, and most articulate,” Stern said of Laura Bush. “She is very clear in her way of expressing herself, and I can’t think of a more pleasant process of working with a client.”

While the major goal of the project was to build a practical structure to house various facilities under one roof, the project also incorporates a number of architectural qualities that reflect the values of the Bushes, George W. Bush Foundation President Mark Langdale said in an interview.

Among these architectural highlights is the center’s 60-foot-tall square tower, set above the spacious columned porch at the entrance of the building. The tower, called Freedom Hall and inspired in some ways by the work of British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, evokes the look of a lantern and will be lit at night to complete the metaphor.

“The lantern is a symbol of helping you go find your way through the dark, and the president believes that freedom similarly helps people find their way,” Stern said.

The tower will be a dominant structure in the Dallas skyline, complementing the dome of SMU’s Dallas Hall, Stern added.

The project also incorporates indigenous Texan plants into the surrounding landscape. The landscape architects will plant prairie grasses and a model of the White House’s Rose Garden, replete with Texan wildflowers in the area.

“One of the things that many people associate with the presidency is the time that [former President Bush] spent on the Crawford Ranch,” project manager Herb Sweeney IV said. “I think that it’s the appreciation of the native Texan landscape that we’re trying to convey.”

The center aims to achieve LEED platinum certification through a variety of environmentally friendly measures, such as the use of locally sourced and recycled materials in the construction and the incorporation of solar hot water panels into the plan.

“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,” SMU President Gerald Turner said in a press release.

The center is estimated to cost the Bush Foundation upwards of $200 million and will occupy a 23.11-acre site on the corner of SMU’s main campus, located five miles north of downtown Dallas.


  • Recent Alum

    It would have been wonderful to have such a center at Yale, but of course given how the University treated the former President, I would imagine that Yale would be one of the last places where he would want to have a center in his honor.

  • Jim

    History will look back on George W. in a more positive light than how the liberal media or liberal academics portray him today. While he was not a great communicator like Reagan, his emphasis on national security clearly protected America from additional terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, for cheap political points, the current administration is dismantling the national security precautions implemented by Bush. Bush’s ability to look past polls in protecting America’s interests at home and abroad was one of his greatest strengths. His greatest mistake was in not balancing the budget and continuing to grow the government – issues that are likely to become worse under Obama.

  • ’77

    Good point. He is more intelligent, accomplished, and humble, than his phony elitist critics here and elsewhere.

  • nonYalie

    @1: There, there.

    Every time George W. Bush and Yale are mentioned in the same sentence, Yale loses.

    Looks as though SMU will lose too, with this fortress-like design.

    In Dallas, would a 60-foot lantern really dominate the skyline? Don’t make me laugh.

  • BushIsEmbarassing

    I would leave yale if that happened. Enough dirt has been uncovered of the university’s disgusting treatment of sexual harassment, rape and other cases – to add a BUSH library on top of that would be repulsive.

  • Gob

    He was also a terrible president, so that might factor into why we might not want a center in his honor.

  • @gob

    Easy to say now. Just because you disagreed with his policies doesn’t mean you can assume you would have done better had you seen much of the same stuff dumped in your lap.

    And @5, we’d be glad to see you go.

  • John_D

    If this initiative helps to build a Republican constituency for Political Science, and to attract contributions relating to the systematic study of politics from different perspectives, then I’m all for it.

    That’s a whole lot better than the Coburn amendment in the Senate, which aimed to cut off federal funding for Political Science, despite the fact that NSF funding for the discipline is, apparently, a paltry $9 M per year. (I still can’t believe it’s that small – did Coburn get the numbers right?) What amazed me was that the Coburn amendment got 36 votes in the Senate – most of the Republicans, and 5 Democrats. That should never happen – Political Science needs to build political support.

    The George W. Bush presidency covers 8 years of history, and is obviously worth a library which, hopefully, will encourage the systematic and scholarly study of politics.

  • Wait….

    I think we’re forgetting that libraries are supposed to be secular centers of knowledge. Our infamous ex-president was acquainted with neither secularism nor knowledge. In fact, I think “Bush Library” qualifies as an oxymoron.

    It’s sort of funny that the Bush Foundation/Laura Bush are the masterminds behind this project. And that they couldn’t get the Bush Shrine anywhere even close to his undergrad/graduate alma mater.

  • Yale ’08

    George Bush was a terrible, terrible president. #2, you can stop fantasizing; history will most certainly not look upon Bush in a greater light. That would make history an exercise in idiocy. The liberal media did not judge George Bush deleteriously: the entire world did.

  • Yale CC ’08

    To echo #6, usually a person should be pretty upstanding to have a building named in their honor. So, uh, yeah, not George Bush. And not at Yale University.

  • Gaius Lucilius

    “History will look back on George W. in a more positive light than how the liberal media or liberal academics portray him today”? Such a ludicrous suggestion would be realized only if the practitioners of said “history” are “edumijucated” at the Shrub Library by the same folks who cooked up intelligent design. A library in this huckster’s name would be a disgrace to those who prefer to uphold lux et veritas; for rational people, the words Blackwater, Abu Ghraib, Valerie Plame, and Katrina (among other) suggest ignominious episodes in which the Bush Administration sought to vanquish, rather than uphold, light and truth, hiding information and hoping that inconvenient situations could be finessed with knowing lies. The Bush camp was fond of naming things like little kids playing “Opposite Day– breaking out the “Mission Accomplished” banner when the war was just beginning, proposing the “Clear Skies Act” that gutted environmental regulations… From the contested election and the suspicious Florida hijinks, to the politicized prosecutor firings, to the signing statements issued in the final days, this administration was a deception-riddled travesty. The irony of borrowing a book from an institution where the walls are emblazoned with the name of a man who actively worked to suppress knowledge–and whose most memorable moment of reading in public involved the esteemed tome _My Pet Goat_–boggles the mind. Hopefully Mrs. Bush’s credibility as a librarian will help to counteract the book-banning and patron-name-keeping (for Homeland Security purposes, they’ll want it on file who’s reading 1984, natch) that will likely ensue.
    Ah. Next time, I’ll tell you how I *really* feel…

  • dallas res

    Stern’s an idiot–you probably won’t even be able to see the building unless you are right next to it, or driving by on central. You can’t even see Dallas Hall unless you are on the SMU campus.

    It’s too bad that he decided against the Georgian architecture, though–SMU is a really pretty campus.

  • Hugh Jorgan



    There is still time to make a much better, more accurate monument to Bush’s remarkable legacy! C’mon Yale alumni – we can do it!

    Feel: ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being CEO’!

    Ride: the ‘Prisoners of the Caribbean’!

    Play: “Stay The Course” Miniature Golf!

    It will not just be educational, but fun for the whole (or fractured) family.

    Fundraising begins now.

    So, are you with us or against us?!!


  • Gaius Lucilius

    #14, Hugh Jorgan–Better material than anything I’ve seen on Conan recently. Would make a *great* film script or series of YouTube clips.
    A few attractions to add:
    Cheney’s Fantasy WarFar[i]re
    Ted Haggard and His Fairy Friends
    Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ Future Earnings Potential

  • Tanner

    To use a popular saying,

    The Bush’s left Yale, Yale didn’t leave the Bush’s. Why should they do anything for an institution, except of course pay tuition, who’s pampered faculty think the office of the president would be a step down.

  • please!

    Please attract more conservative thinkers to Yale!!! It’s badly needed..this campus is so slanted it has become unintellectual.

  • LIK

    This design was first revealed in an ArchiTakes.com profile of Stern last month: http://www.architakes.com/?p=1625. ArchiTakes also discusses what Stern is doing at Yale. The piece really lets the daylight through him. “Must” reading.

  • Jennifer

    A campus that bans the word ‘sissy’ as not being politically correct and then turns around and says that Bush was not a good president is like Architectural Digest doing a centerfold spread on “The Women of Hoarders.”

  • Christian Miner, Ph.D

    Perfect. Looks exactly like a suburban junior high school.

  • mj

    Note that, as usual from that side of the political aisle, the “defenses” of Bush consist of little more than ad hominem directed toward his critics. That sort of thing is a sure sign that you really haven’t got much of a case to make —