One of the co-designers of the Obama presidential library and museum revealed Tuesday how she reacted when she heard that she and her architectural partner husband had won the job.

“All I did was scream at the top of my lungs,” New York architect Billie Tsien said. She then called her mother, who also let out a scream.

“I feel like our entire lives, we’ve been working toward this project,” Tsien said as her husband, Tod Williams, looked on.

But anyone expecting that the New York architects would reveal their design for the Obama library and museum — or even their concepts for the building — would have come away disappointed from the event at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park.

It marked the architects’ first public appearance in Chicago since Obama selected them in June.

“I know everybody wants to see the design,” said Michael Strautmanis, vice president of civic engagement for the Obama Foundation, the not-for-profit in charge of developing the complex honoring the nation’s first African-American president.

But, Strautmanis added, “the president is still exploring ideas.”

So the waiting game for one of Chicago’s most prestigious architectural projects goes on.

And it is expected to continue Wednesday when Williams and Tsien lecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Crown Hall, a renowned steel-and-glass structure designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.


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