Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

The LBJ Presidential Library, located on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, is an icon of modern architecture. It was designed by Gordon Bunshaft, FAIA, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1966 and dedicated in 1971, and features a 10-story monolithic mass placed alone within a large promontory-like plaza.

The east and west walls create supporting planes for a plinth-like cap, which houses the president’s office, research spaces, and meeting rooms. The exterior is clad with travertine and presents a stoic and protective presence for the image of the library as a place to hold and protect the papers, documents, and objects from Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. In an interview for the Chicago Architects Oral History Project, Bunshaft cited the strength of President Johnson, who was then at the pinnacle of his power, as well as the dramatic site, as inspiration for the building’s monumental design.

The most notable of the library’s interior spaces is the six-story Great Hall. Bunshaft felt strongly that rather than placing the archives in a vault, the public ought to be made aware of the 30 million documents housed within the building. The resulting design features a monumental travertine staircase leading up to a glass box holding the library’s papers, which are filed in thousands of red boxes adorned with gold presidential seals, creating a rich pattern.

In 2009, Overland Partners, with ARCHITEXAS, undertook a renovation of the library to resolve issues that had plagued it since its early years, as well as problems that had developed over decades of use and exposure to the elements. Praised for respecting the genius of Bunshaft’s work, the firm’s main contributions included the installation of a colorful mural and replacement of the original fountains with raised planters, both in honor of the environmental legacy of Lady Bird Johnson.

The 25-Year Award will be presented to SOM during the Second General Session at the Texas Society of Architects’ 2016 Convention and Design Expo in San Antonio.

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