Building the Center
President Clinton envisioned a presidential center that would serve as a symbol of our heritage, a record of our past, and a jumping-off point for the future.
It was up to the architects James Polshek and Richard Olcott of Polshek Partnership and the exhibit designers Ralph Appelbaum and Melanie Ide of Ralph Appelbaum Associates to bring his vision to life.
At the very beginning of conceptual discussions, a powerful, symbolic idea emerged. President Clinton and the architects realized that the most striking feature of Little Rock is the six bridges over the Arkansas River. The concept of a bridge-like building was a natural fit with the scenic river view, and just as importantly, as an extension of President Clinton's ideas about the nation. The structure invokes a tangible physical link between yesterday and tomorrow: a major architectural statement of the 21st century that looks as if it is reaching outward to the other shore and the future.
During the design and construction of the Center, the architects and exhibit designers had to keep the building’s main purposes in mind. First, as a part of the National Archives, the Library and Museum has a vital mission, mandated by Congress, to preserve and protect the artifacts and documents of the Clinton Presidency for future generations of scholars, students, citizens, and visitors from all over the world. The second requirement is that the Center provide a memorable experience for all who travel to its grounds.
In addition, maintaining President Clinton’s commitment to protecting our environment was a vital component to the design and operation of the Center. This commitment earned the Library and Museum a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification for Existing Buildings from the U.S. Green Building Council and two Green Globes from the Green Building Initiative (GBI), making it the only federally-maintained facility to achieve these standards. A carbon-neutral facility, the Center uses 34 percent less energy than other buildings of its kind. Learn more about the Center’s commitment to sustainability.
Today, the Center is a symbol of renewal for the city of Little Rock and an example of architecture and urban planning that embodies the future while preserving our past, which earned it the American Institute of Architecture’s highest award in 2006. But at its core, the Center remains a destination to reflect upon the meaning of the American presidency and to inspire us all to dream big.