One example is the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the Texas A&M University campus. The rotunda now at the entrance of the library—which is one of three buildings in a complex—was actually added later in the design process, at the urging of Bush’s advisors, to make the building more formal. The Classical elements favored by other Republican libraries were then incorporated further through a colonnade “to reference the rhythm of the library,” explains Kathrin Brunner of architecture firm HOK, one of the building’s project designers. The formal significance of the rotunda was further enforced by the materials. “The presidential library is mainly limestone whereas the other two buildings [in the complex] are mainly clad in brick…so there is also a slight material hierarchy,” Brunner says.
The focal point of the Bush complex design was initially shared outdoor space, as the site of the library slopes gently towards a creek and small lake, uncommon features for the flat Texas landscape. Even through the changes, Brunner says that focus was preserved. And the symbolic and aesthetic importance of landscape has been taken up by other presidential library architects working for presidents across the aisle. Richard Olcott of Ennead Architects was a design partner for the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. The cantilevered, semi-transparent pavilion mirrors the silhouettes of Little Rock’s famous ‘six bridges’ which span the Arkansas River, Olcott explains.