The Bush Library Contest: Where’s the Vision? Where’s the Artistry?

Bush Library Entry
A detail from one of the latest entries in the Back-of-the-Envelope Bush Library Design Contest. To see the full version of this entry, click here.

After an article about The Chronicle’s contest to design the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the back of an envelope appeared in The Dallas Morning News, every Bush-hater in North Texas submitted an entry. By now the library-as-bunker idea is played out—we got about a dozen of those. Same goes for the library-as-outhouse idea, which wasn’t original in the first place. A humor site had already done it.

Let’s just say that Mr. Bush should be less worried about the test scores of America’s children and more concerned about their imagination. How are we going to compete with China and India if our people can’t think outside the box (or outside the outhouse)?

Surprising, detailed, and thoughtful entries, like the one above, have been depressingly rare. The architect of this library (which, ironically, is reminiscent of the United Nations building) seems to have thought out everything. True to star-architect form, he even broke the budget, designing outside of the size-10 restrictions.

We want your creative designs, and you have two weeks to finish them. Entries must be postmarked by February 1. Click here for the rules.

One more thing: We’ve heard that some architects and architecture firms are reluctant to send in designs. They don’t want their libraries to run alongside crude pictures of toilets, we’ve heard, and they don’t want to be associated with a George W. Bush Library, even a make-believe one.

We have some responses to this: Regarding your peers in the contest, we have made clear that we’ll winnow the entries; the outhouse designs probably won’t make the cut.

Regarding the PR repercussions of designing a library for a not-very-popular Bush, just be courageous. (Your entry will be anonymous during the reader-voting process, anyway.) Great architects have been known to be brave, proud, and even pugnacious, not intimidated by even the most daunting projects. Mustering courage for an imaginary building can’t be that hard.

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