Shortlisted from an original pool of 40 applicants, Snøhetta competed against Studio Gang and Henning Larsen in a design competition amidst a global pandemic for the final selection. The three teams traveled to Medora over the summer to survey the site and to meet with the local community, stakeholders, and residents. As the selected design architect, Snøhetta will work with a local, North Dakota-based architect to deliver the final project.
Snøhetta’s design for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is informed by the President’s personal reflections on the landscape, his commitment to environmental stewardship, and the periods of quiet introspection and civic engagement that marked his life. The design of the Library is more than a building; it is a journey through a preserved landscape of diverse habitats, punctuated with small pavilions providing spaces for reflection and activity. The Library’s gently sloping roof looks to the northeast, gazing over the National Park, historical settings in the Little Missouri River valley, and the Elkhorn Ranch far in the distance, further connecting the Library of tomorrow with its origins in the past.
“When designing a new project, we think about how we can more give to the site or community more than is initially asked of us,” said Craig Dykers. “We integrated the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library into the landscape of the North Dakota Badlands. We still have much to learn about President Roosevelt, and we’re looking forward to working with the Medora community and the broader project team to translate this knowledge into an immersive place to learn about T.R.’s life and legacy.”
“One of Theodore Roosevelt’s most enduring legacies is conservation and our national parks,” said Theodore Roosevelt V, a great-great-grandson and namesake of the 26th president. “This will be the only presidential library alongside a national park and the only national park alongside a presidential library. It will invite visitors to see and experience the very cradle of conservation. That is why this location in North Dakota is perfect for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.”
The building’s location at the northeast edge of the butte preserves the landscape for conservation research while offering a setting for educational walks, leisure, and recreation. As visitors set out on the Library loop, they will encounter adventurous paths which connect to the nearby Maah Daah Hey Trail as well as several small pavilions. Ranging from contemplative nooks to expansive vistas, these pavilions invite visitors to experience Roosevelt’s trials and triumphs in dialogue with the landscapes that shaped him. The Library is understood to be the buildings, pavilions, paths and landscape.
The design functions in harmony with the unique ecology of the region and expresses the conservation ethos for which Roosevelt is remembered. Its construction will use locally sourced and renewable materials, while its sophisticated energy systems will set a new standard for sustainable design in the region. The design also mitigates the impact of wind and other climatic factors so that the Library will be accessible in all seasons.