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Barack Obama Presidential Library

NYC Submission
Columbia University in the City of New York


Philip Palmgren has an ongoing planning relationship with Columbia University, spanning over 15 years of multiple interlocking studies. While at SOM, he led master plans for the new Manhattanville campus at 125th Street, which ultimately led to the creation of the Special Manhattanville Mixed Use District (Article 10, Chapter 4). Now rePLACE continues the planning work at Manhattanville, with a series of studies to guide acquisitions and determine land use strategies, such as a retail analyses and soft site development studies.

Columbia’s Manhattanville campus sits on Harlem’s western edge, encompassing 17-acres of land stretching from West 125th to West 133rd. The ongoing project aims to fully integrate the University with the surrounding urban fabric. Unlike the “walled” main campus, Manhattanville will create a publicly accessible ground plane to engage the surrounding neighborhood and activate the city streets, merging university and city in a dynamic and vibrant academic precinct. These qualities rendered Manhattanville as a perfect candidate for the Obama Presidential Library, which is now being planned in the city of Chicago.

The University, in coordination with rePLACE Urban Studio, identified two potential sites for the Library: one within the campus (Site 15) and a second immediately south of it on West 125th Street (West 125th Street Site). Both sites sit on the Broadway Axis, a widely accessible street with historic significance, and are within walking distance of many of the city’s leading cultural institutes such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Apollo Theater. This project was complex and unique because it involved amending the regulations within a special zoning district in order to meet changing goal sets.

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