Bush Thrilled with Plans for Presidential Library
WASHINGTON - Designs for former President George W. Bush's library and policy institute will be unveiled today in Dallas, highlighting a brick-and-limestone affair to be capped by a lantern-shaped roof that will glow at night.
The complex, which will include the 43rd president's archives and a museum, will be built along the eastern edge of Southern Methodist University, the alma mater of former first lady Laura Bush. She will appear with architect Robert A.M. Stern at a Dallas news conference today to discuss the designs.
Bush said in a statement that he and his wife are "thrilled with the plans" for a facility they hope "will capture the dignity of the office of the presidency, while at the same time being warm and welcoming to visitors."
Bush's plans for the public policy think tank have drawn criticism from some SMU faculty. Cal Jillson, a political science professor, said the museum and library are fine ideas but the institute is "disturbing." Jillson is concerned it could become "lavishly funded to promote a certain set of views," namely the conservative goals of Bush's presidency.
Mark Langdale, president of the Bush Foundation, which spearheads the fundraising for the complex, said the former president "is very committed for this to be a non-partisan and very effective institute of thought and action."
One feature of the library will be a "freedom collection" with videos of testimony from "freedom activists and dissidents," including residents of the former Czechoslovakia, North Korea and Iran.
Visitors will enter the library through the large open space of the Freedom Hall, which will be topped by a lantern-like roof, Stern said. "In the evening hours," he said, "it will be lit from within, and it will glow."
The main hall will provide access to permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as to the museum itself. Bush has said the museum will be organized to tell the story of his key decisions, such as the response to the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war. The museum will include a replica of the Oval Office and an outdoor Texas Rose Garden.
Stern said the George W. Bush Presidential Center, as the complex will be known, will be built with brick from Mississippi, as well as different kinds of Texas limestone. The interior paneling of the building will be stained pecan from Texas. The building will be designed to fit in with the mostly American Georgian-style architecture at SMU.
The goal is to create "a place where people can learn from the decisions made in a presidency," Langdale said.
Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, said he wants to reinforce that the presidency "is one of the most important offices in the world."
The foundation has set a goal of raising $300 million in private contributions for the facility, Langdale said, making it the most expensive presidential library project to date.
Supporters of the library honoring former president Bill Clinton raised $165 million in private funds before it opened in Little Rock in 2004.
In a speech last week at SMU, Bush said the policy institute will offer programs on education, global health, democracy promotion and economic growth. Its mission, he said, is "to advance policy initiatives that expand freedom, opportunity, responsibility and compassion."