Most critics agree: President Clinton’s library, designed by architect James Polshek, is a breathtaking building.
It cantilevers 90 feet to the banks of the Arkansas River and seems to float there, an intentional bow to Clinton’s mantra of “building a bridge to the 21st century.” More than 150,000 pounds of glass offer sweeping vistas of the city’s skyline and flood the interior with light.
The building won a National Design Award last month.
But, said library foundation President Skip Rutherford, “I don’t believe the theory (that) if you build it they will come. You have to offer them something.”
And the foundation has. The museum features a 110-foot interactive time line of the Clinton presidential years, plus permanent exhibits that use documents, photos and videos to showcase Clinton’s life in the White House.
The complex, surrounded by a 27-acre park where derelict train tracks and abandoned warehouses once stood, is “the first ‘green’ presidential library in the country,” Rutherford said. It has 306 solar panels, 10 miles of underground radiant heating and so many other conservation features it uses 34 percent less energy than a normal building its size.
Across a landscaped “scholar’s garden” linked to wireless Internet is the elaborate 1899 red-brick Choctaw Line railroad station, transformed by $4 million into the Clinton School of Public Service. Clinton, who has an office on the second floor, is expected to be a guest lecturer.
At a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Clinton spoke of his love of the architectural flourishes of the 150,000-square-foot library complex – and complained that a British magazine had mocked it as a glorified house trailer.
“I guess that’s just me,” Clinton said. “A little bit of red and a little bit of blue.”