O’Keefe had a better time on one of his first hikes on the butte, after joining the project in late 2019. A horse appeared on the side of a hill, he recalled, just as the snow was starting to fall slowly. “It was just magical,” he said.
Craig Dykers, co-founder of Snohetta and lead architect of the library, first visited the city in May 2020, when three companies were vying for the position. In a phone interview, Dykers recalled hiking through the badlands, listening to wildlife and the wind in the grass.
In his New York office, he still has the impromptu sketch he made on the picnic table at his campsite: two unusually smooth round stones collected near the Little Missouri River, topped with a leaf.
Snohetta also designed major libraries in Calgary and Alexandria, Egypt. “Libraries are not just about books and buildings,” Dykers said, “but also about places and learning first-hand about those places.”
The “Plush Triangle”
The North Dakota Presidential Library project began 10 years ago, with plans to build it at Dickinson State University. It was to be coordinated by the school’s Theodore Roosevelt Center, which was also creating a digital library, including scans of every known item related to Roosevelt.
In 2018, after cuts to university funding, the project moved to Medora, under pressure from Gov. Doug Burgum, who made the library a signature issue. In 2019, Burgum, a Republican software billionaire currently running for president, signed legislation committing $50 million from the state’s oil and gas revenue fund, provided library backers could raise $100 million dollars by the end of 2020.