Hawaii wants the honor of being the location of the forthcoming President Obama Library, and it is making its case through a spectacular design and through pulling on emotional connections.
The First Family vacationed during the holidays in the president’s birthplace and home for the early years of his life, as it has many times. And it is that life-long connection to the gorgeous island that officials hope will earn them the bid.
“He comes here to find himself,” said Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Find another president of the U.S. who went to a surging rock cliff and threw his most beloved people’s ashes into the water,” Caldwell said of Obama’s seaside burial of his mother and grandmother near Sandy Beach. “I think he wants to be here.”
Hawaii is bidding with Chicago, where he grew up and began his political career, and New York City, where he went to college and held one of his first jobs. Obama and Michelle will make a decision on the eventual location early this year, according to reports.
In Hawaii, evolving oceanic organisms called polyps are common, found on corals in or near the majestic ocean. The Honolulu officials find symmetry in their existence on the island and Obama.
“We here in Hawaii consider the president a polyp for all the great things that he’s done in his presidency and starting here anew,” said architect Rob Iopa, whose firm WCIT has created design concepts for the facility.
The Barack Obama Foundation is overseeing the competition.
An eight-acre property on the oceanfront that offers breathtaking views has been donated by the Hawaiian government for the edifice. “It would cost tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to build,” Iopa said. “We aren’t doing the fundraising, but all the money would be privately raised.”
Iopa envisions his design, developed with the New York firm of Snohetta, as a dramatic piece of coral that would become an iconic focal point on Point Panic, just two miles from Waikiki Beach.
Officials say Obama’s historic presidency will be a draw to their land.
“Any visitor who comes to Hawaii is going to stay in Waikiki, most likely, and they’re going to go to the Arizona Memorial. And then they’re going to go to the Obama Library and learn about this first and only African-American president, and why he came from here,” Caldwell said.