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.
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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.