The William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas is bigger than it appears in photographs but not nearly as monumental. The building, completed in 2004 by Polshek Partnership, is a long, glass box whose back end is firmly anchored along the south bank of the Arkansas River, and whose front end cantilevers over the water. It has a handsome glass skin overlaid with metal balconies, patios and screens that filter sunlight and views.
The center is, fittingly, friendly and capacious, with a cool, professional sheen. The exhibits give a rather clinical account of the work and accomplishments of the Clinton administrations. Al Gore’s accomplishments, which include promoting the internet and educating the world about global warning, are separated into a single, stingy display. The building is Pure Bill. Its construction was instrumental in the revitalization of the city’s River Market district. But it’s sited a distance from the liveliest blocks, sits out of alignment with existing streets and, rather than facing the heart of the city, looks far and high across the river in a hopeful, metaphoric gesture. And this is also Pure Bill, reaching rhetorical eloquence while stumbling on mundane tasks.