Details emerge about Bush library, policy center


by By LAURA ISENSEE / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:20 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 26 at 1:38 PM

WASHINGTON - George W. Bush's presidential library is taking shape in early designs, evolving from separate buildings at SMU into a single, multi-story complex with a policy institute nearly two-thirds bigger than first proposed.

The overall structure has grown to an estimated 207,000 square feet - akin to an average Wal-Mart Super Center - making it more than twice as large as his father's, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University.

Just last week, engineers for the younger Bush's library toured the A&M site, looking for design tips. And the National Archives, which has been meeting regularly with Bush architects, is preparing soon for its first major review of the library's preliminary plans.

In interviews, federal archivists and Bush officials provided the most details yet about the size of the library and policy center, which mostly will be separated by an internal wall. The building at Southern Methodist University will anchor the north part of a 32-acre tract along North Central Expressway north of Mockingbird Lane.

Blueprints have yet to be drawn, and other revisions are likely before the expected groundbreaking next year, said Mark Langdale, president of the nonprofit George W. Bush Foundation, which wants to raise $300 million for construction and endowment of the library.

Still baking

"It's like a cake being baked in the oven. It's still changing," he said.

The most significant change from the library's May 2007 architect search application involves having a larger Bush policy center.

Some faculty and church members have opposed what they say will be a highly partisan think tank on campus. Bush, who has referred to the center as the Freedom Institute, says it will focus on a broad range of topics, including the promotion of democracy abroad and education reforms.

Library organizers first proposed a 40,000-square-foot policy center and a separate 145,000-square-foot building for the library, museum and storage of Bush documents and artifacts. The National Archives will operate those areas, and the Bush Foundation will be housed in and run the policy center.

Langdale said architects recommended last summer pairing it all under the same roof to maximize space and increase aesthetics, flow and building efficiency among a "laundry list" of reasons. Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York is designing the complex.

The policy institute area now figures at about 66,000 square feet, chiefly because of a larger auditorium and more conference and service space.

Langdale said the overall increase is not significant, only about 10 percent more than originally anticipated - at a time when there were no formal plans, only conceptual ideas. It is, he said, "an evolution of the design."

As for the policy center changes, he said, "We believe the SMU community will view the institute as enriching the open exchange of ideas on campus."

Other details

Among other details:

The library will sit on a hill, shifting from a two- to a three-story building as the incline slopes downwards.

The library and museum's size has decreased slightly, by about 5,000 square feet.

The policy center will include a 400-seat auditorium. Previously, Bush has talked of bringing world leaders to speak at his center as well as trying to host a presidential debate.

The separately run library and policy institute - which have different missions - will be divided by a wall, like a townhouse, Langdale said, but will share a lobby.

Putting the two facilities so close is not unprecedented; Jimmy Carter's library and center in Atlanta are attached by a passageway.

The National Archives, responsible at key stages for ensuring that the designs meet federal rules, has been working with the foundation and its architects.

"You don't want to have the building all built and then say, 'Oh, you forgot this,' " said Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries.

Ronald Reagan's library in California remains the largest presidential complex of the 13 in the federal system. Its archives, museum, foundation and the Air Force One Pavilion added in 2005 total more than 265,000 square feet.

It went up before Congress gave strong financial incentives to build presidential archives within certain size limits.

Agenda for National Archives and Bush library

On the agenda for the National Archives as it prepares for George W. Bush's library in Dallas:

The agency now has eight employees working at Southern Methodist University.

It plans to staff the Bush library with 18 archivists. George H.W. Bush's library has eight archivists; Bill Clinton's has 10.

The last scheduled shipment of hard-copy documents and artifacts from Bush's tenure will arrive this month at a temporary warehouse in Lewisville.

So far, the agency has uploaded at least two out of 100 terabytes of digital archives to its electronic records system. Each terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes.