I. Francois Leininger – American Presidential Libraries

This piece is an interview with the architect Francois Leininger about his research into the history of presidential libraries.

  • “The story started when I came with this idea to do research on presidential library. […] Part of the challenge for me during this Master’s degree was to figure out a way to make this research happen at Princeton while I was also doing all the required things […] for my degree.”

  • “On the one hand, these libraries, one of their goals, I think, is to be appealing to a very, very large public, maybe the largest public that you can imagine.”

  • “There’s not a lot of these […] cultural institutions there, and suddenly a very large cultural institution that is going to bring very important archives and also create a big museum with a lot of money behind is coming to these places. And that creates a whole dynamic.”

  • “The museum, that at the beginning was just a small room in the Roosevelt project […] became a huge part of the institution, bigger and bigger and bigger.”

  • “If it ends up going towards the role-playing and Disney Land kind of thing, it becomes completely absurd. And so how do you explain that and how can you imagine, as an architect, a different kind of outcome?”

  • “The previous interview would inform how I would conduct the next one, and the last interview was much more interesting than the first one, obviously, because I was also learning how to do this, as I was doing it, and I was learning what these libraries were as I was traveling.”

  • “They were all interesting for certain reasons, for different reasons. Eisenhower was extremely interesting because it was ina small town in Kansas. Reagan was interesting was because […] they brought new forms of interactive and role-playing exhibitions…”

  • “The trip was a mix of rigorous research and adventure in the way road trips in America are always adventures, where you decide on a route, and then along the way, you have to allow yourself the possibility to discover things that were unplanned.”

  • “It tells something about America and the relationship of the country to politics and the historical figures. The president is the hero, the American way, who most of the time fulfilled the American dream. […] It’s very important for these presidential libraries […] to tell these stories.”

  • “From the beginning, there was some skepticism at Princeton in the architecture department about the subject. Is the presidential library an interesting subject for Princeton?”



Griffin Ofiesh

Issue Editor

Joseph Bedford


Joseph Bedford

Founding Editor

Joseph Bedford


Alastair Stokes


Francois Leininger (co-founder of Post-Office Architectes)


Trudy Watt