The Obama presidential library unveiled a new design proposal yesterday. Chicago Tribune columnist Blair Kamis says the new design is intended to satisfy critics of the previous design released last year.

Addressing criticism that their plans would undermine the serene landscape of historic Jackson Park, backers of the Obama Presidential Center on Tuesday revealed major revisions that include a sleeker version of the center’s controversial museum tower.

The new tower design calls for a high-rise that would be taller, thinner and more transparent than a version unveiled last May, which was widely panned as monolithic and pyramidlike. Portions of the revamped tower’s outside walls would consist of screens made of stone letters, making the tower airier while suggesting the importance of words in Barack Obama’s presidency.

I don’t recall the earlier design but my first impression of this one is that it looks like someone chopped down the Washington Monument. The shape is different at the bottom but you can’t see that part through the trees (in the image above). According to the website, the shape was inspired by four hands coming together:

The Museum building is a tower — representing ascension, hope, and what ordinary people have the power to do together. Its design was inspired by a photo of four hands coming together. Like these hands, each facade of the four-sided tower will be a little different from the next — enhanced with texture and detail, and offering a beautiful and unique experience from all angles.

Yesterday the library put out a video (narrated by President Obama) which says this is the photo that produced the current design:

I guess I can see that but I would never have guessed it looking at the building. The video also describes Obama’s personal involvement in the design. “You should know that when I was younger I went through a phase where I wanted to be an architect,” Obama says. He adds, “So, as you can imagine, I’ve been pretty hands-on in the process.”

This reminds me of a quote attributed to Obama back in 2008, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” I guess you can now add, ‘And I’m a better architect than my architects’ to that list.

Bottom line, if you like this look then I guess that’s one more amazing thing Obama can do. If not, well, you know who to blame.