Return to Home PageThe President's House

Amaze Design Team

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Amaze Design
Amaze Design Model — View looking south from Market Street. President's House Gallery straight ahead. Glass panels of the Executive Office to the left. Liberty Memorial in the background.

Explanation of Model Provided by Amaze Design Team

The history of the President's House-and the enslaved and free people who lived here-is the history of the making of America. In previous telling, only selections of this history have been told. On this important national site, no less than the birthplace of America, we have the opportunity to reveal the full history of two worlds, enslaved and free, intersecting and intertwined. Americans owe much to the people who lived and worked in the President's House. Their history is the history of us all.

Our design is inspired by the original architecture of the house, by the existing architecture of the Liberty Bell Center, by the need to provide both interpretation and commemoration equally, and most importantly, by the lives of the inhabitants of this site. Our design allows visitors to access the site and its interpretation from multiple directions, perspectives and capabilities.

Accordingly, our design has flowed from these objectives:

  1. To express the President's House in abstract rather than literal form;
  2. To provide "breathing" room between the Liberty Bell Center and the main three dimensional elements of the design;
  3. To create a variety of types of spaces-sheltered, open, limited views, long views-to provide for a diverse audience, ensuring visitors of all ages, capabilities and backgrounds are welcome in a barrier-free environment, with multiple points of entry into the interpretation and the site;
  4. To create a new, iconic destination for the Independence National Historic Park that interprets the full history of the President's House and invites visitors to investigate and reflect on this history;
  5. To present the history of the President's House as "American" history, one that honors the achievements of Presidents Washington and Adams , but one that equally honors, dignifies, and gives voice to the agency of the enslaved people of the President's House.
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Amaze Design
Amaze Design Model — Site overview looking northwest. Reflecting pool at the Slave Quarters can be seen beneath the Liberty Bell canopy. The Liberty Memorial (tower), 9 commemorative chairs, executive office, President's House gallery and Sacred Grove may be viewed from the reflecting pool looking north toward Market Street.

Rather than attempt to recreate the house, we have made use of horizontal and vertical planes to suggest the form of the original footprint. Minor elevation changes in the ground planes along with changes in paving and plant materials suggest various "rooms", including an outdoor room east of the house footprint recalling a Sacred Grove. On the south side of the site, we have created an evocative Reflecting Pool that envelops the entire footprint of the "slave quarters" and "smokehouse". While visitors are allowed to walk everywhere on the site, we make use of a water feature here to signal the sanctity of this ground, a place upon which we do not tread. In this way we are shaping space, but not fully containing it-a choreography that allows visitors to experience space in diverse ways.

We have used a combination of symbolic and interpretive language to characterize the elements of the site. The President's House Gallery, which faces Market Street and Title Wall and Occupant Registry, which presents itself along Sixth Street are the most literal representations of the footprint of the original house. Within the gallery, we have utilized 9 structural columns to carry the biographies of the enslaved people who lived in the house. These columns signify the importance of enslaved people to the "structure" of the house, while providing a sense of who they were as individuals. At the same time, we have designed the roof to be of a lightweight perforated metal, to allow in air, indirect light, and rain-thus creating a gently nuanced and ever-changing experience within the space.

Separation is created between the Liberty Bell Center and the more three dimensional structures of the President's House sited to the north along Market Street, allowing each to complement rather than compete with one another. This separation allows us to create a courtyard, anchored by the soaring Liberty Memorial. This tower of steel, polished on the inside and unfinished on the outside is the focal point of the site. It memorializes the struggle for Liberty carried forward by our ancestors, enslaved and free. At the base of the tower is paving embedded with replicated archeological artifacts such as beads, shells and ceramic fragments-the legacy of generations who have worked and died in the service of Liberty.

The Liberty Memorial evolved from an initial notion to provide an anchor to the kitchen and servants dining area in the form of a chimney. As this idea developed, we realized the "chimney" had the ability to evoke much more, not the least of which was the Washington Monument. In its final form, the Liberty Memorial retains its prominence in the kitchen and servants dining area, and is complemented by a commemorative installation of 9 Chairs. Human in scale, these 9 chairs will nonetheless be unique in size, color and material to establish the kitchen and servants dining areas as a place for communion, interchange and importantly-agency.

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City Photo
Amaze Design Model

East and north of the Liberty Memorial is an architectural gesture suggesting the form of the Executive Office, embraced by two large panes of etched glass supporting a lightweight, cantilevered roof. West of the Liberty Memorial, we have installed a form suggestive of the "Ice House". While not the original location of this structure, we will use its form to create an outdoor theater with a seating wall for viewing a looping video presentation focused on "history lost and found", which addresses the archeology of the site and the advocacy that brought the full story of the President's House to light.

In the end, our design aim is to create a new destination that is visually arresting from near and far, that is intellectually engaging, that is historically accurate, that creates a distinctive pride for the City of Philadelphia and that is a place where all visitors feel welcome.

Amaze Design Team Members

historic documents, declaration, constitution, more