George W. Bush Library an Architectural Embodiment of the President's Self-Image

The George W. Bush Presidential Center, which was dedicated this past week, is a rare glimpse into the former president’s understanding of his own legacy, writes Henry Grabar.
April 28, 2013, 5am PDT | Anna Bergren Miller | @abergrenmiller
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The building, which sits on the Georgian revival-dominated campus of Southern Methodist University, was designed by architect Robert A. M. Stern. “I wanted it to have the Texas feel that this building does because that’s where we’re from,” Laura Bush explained. The building was constructed largely of local materials, including Texas Cordova Cream limestone and mesquite floors.

“I also wanted the building to be modern-looking, to be forward-looking because George was president during the very first decade of our new century,” the former first lady explained. But while the LEED Platinum-certified structure may be on the cutting edge of sustainable design, its architecture is hardly avant garde. Its rectilinearity recalls 1930s Italian architecture and nineteenth-century New England mill towns. Other precedents include the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and Karl Friedrich Schiller’s Schauspielhaus.

In his design for the presidential library, Stern succeeded in capturing some of the contradictions at the heart of George W. Bush’s self-image: compassion and conservatism, warmth and firmness.

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Published on Thursday, April 25, 2013 in Atlantic Cities
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