Medora is a tiny town (population 112 as of the 2010 census) located in western North Dakota, just south of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The town is one of the main entrances into the 70,000-acre park devoted to the 26th President of the United States.
Per the National Park Service, “When Theodore Roosevelt came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883, he was a skinny, young, spectacled dude from New York. He could not have imagined how his adventure in this remote and unfamiliar place would forever alter the course of the nation. The rugged landscape and strenuous life that TR experienced here would help shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today.”
TR’s links to the North Dakota Badlands — so named because of the difficulty in traversing the beautifully eroded, rocky landscape in the days before highways — led to the creation of the eponymous national park, as well as the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation’s decision to locate the planned library in Medora.
Dating back to 1939 and the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (TR and FDR were distant cousins), presidential libraries are privately funded institutions that hold the papers of US presidents, predicated on the notion that the documents of a president are personal property. Some of the most famous presidential libraries, at least from an architectural point of view, include the Kennedy Library designed by I.M. Pei and the Clinton Library designed by James Stewart Polshek. (Technically the ongoing Obama Presidential Center designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien will not include the presidential library of Barack Obama, as his library is fully digital.) When built, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library would become the 14th physical US Presidential Library.
Following the release of an architectural brief in December 2019, the foundation leading the competition for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library selected fourteen teams in April 2020 and then one month later chose Henning Larsen, Snøhetta, and Studio Gang as the three finalists. Their designs were released to the public yesterday, and next month a winner will be announced. Below are renderings of the three entries, with excerpts from the architects’ descriptions.