Bush to mark progress of library construction

October 3, 2011 - 3:10 AM

DALLAS (AP) — Former President George W. Bush was set to speak Monday at a ceremony marking the placement of the last construction beam for his presidential center in Dallas.

Around 600 people, including former first lady Laura Bush and members of the construction team, were expected to attend the "topping out" ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will include his presidential library and a policy institute.

The nearly 225,000-sq.-foot center is located on about 25 acres on the campus of Southern Methodist University. When completed in spring 2013, it will have an exterior of red brick and limestone and landscaping that includes a restored prairie, a woodland and wildflower meadow.

Architect Robert A.M. Stern said that the center has been designed to complement the university's Georgian architecture but also has "its own character."

Laura Bush, who chairs the design committee for the center, told The Associated Press that she wanted the building to have a modern feel since her husband's presidency was the first of the 21st century.

Visitors to the museum will enter through Freedom Hall, a large light-filled open space that will tie different aspects of the center together. The museum's permanent exhibit includes a replica of the Oval Office as it appeared during the Bush administration and the White House Rose Garden, with a few tweaks for the Texas climate.

"It's very open and accessible and we hope people will come back again and again," Stern said.

Like the Bushes ranch in Crawford, the presidential center has incorporated environmentally-friendly design elements, including using as many as possible materials from within 500 miles of the site. Also, solar panels will supply hot water and there will be a system to capture and reuse rainwater.

Laura Bush said that the museum's exhibit on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will include a giant bent beam from the World Trade Center. "That is a very somber part of the museum display," she said.

The George W. Bush Foundation has already raised the $250 million needed for the cost of the building and an around $8 million endowment to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, said foundation president Mark Langdale.

The Bushes moved to Dallas after he left office in January 2009.

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On the Net:

George W. Bush Presidential Center: www.georgewbushcenter.com