Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

Clinton Presidential Center – Exterior (2004)

James Stewart Polshek FAIA, Architect

1200 President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72201

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Visited April 25 & 26, 2013

I finally got the opportunity to visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Center. Over the years I have heard other architects joking that it looks like a single wide trailer. I was shocked to chat with a local woman in Little Rock who found out that I was an architect there to see the Clinton Center – she leaned over and quietly said “I think it looks like a single wide trailer”.

I have seen other James Stewart Polshek buildings and know that they are striking, well detailed modern objects. This is no exception. This building is described as a bridge…at least the beginning of a bridge cantilevered out at the river’s edge. He uses the bridge reference literally from the adjacent abandoned railroad bridge, and figuratively from Clinton’s “Bridge to the Future” acceptance speech. This square tube truss dramatically cantilevers out toward the river at the eastern edge of downtown Little Rock. The western facade has fritted glass panels suspended several feet in front of the truss frame creating a sunscreen shielding the interior space. At night this glass curtain glows with the light from inside the museum. The cross bracing structural members on the ends are purposely placed off center to create a dynamic frame in what could have been a bland facade. It did not disappoint. Well done.

As far as the local’s reference to it looking like a single wide trailer, The Clinton Presidential Center is not alone with nicknames.  Polshek’s Biomedical Science Research Building on the University of Michigan Campus is known as the “Pringle” building by locals – due to the potato chip shaped roof of the auditorium sited prominently out front. I am sure that James Stewart Polshek would not approve of either.

While visiting the Museum, have lunch at the museum cafe, FortyTwo


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