Bob Dylan Center in Oklahoma to be designed by Olson Kundig

First look at the Bob Dylan Center renders by Olson Kundig
(Image credit: Kundig Architects)

Bob Dylan once sang, ‘Take care of your memories, for you can not relive them’. It’s all the more poignant, then, that his 100,000-strong archive – filled to the brim with songs, snaps and scribbled manuscripts – is finding a permanent, and architecturally significant, new home. Announced on 27 June, the new Bob Dylan Center – set to open in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2021 – will be designed by Olson Kundig, which won the bid after a hotly contested international design competition.

The archives are already located in Tulsa, but are currently largely inaccessible to the general public, only available for academic research. Many items will be never-before-seen when the centre opens. It will provide a dedicated and open space for the study and appreciation of Dylan’s worldwide cultural significance, as well as being a multivalent flagship for exhibitions, performances and events.

The project was initiated by The George Kaiser Family Foundation, who also set up the Woody Guthrie Center just down the road. Dylan feels that this spot ‘makes sense’ – Guthrie is his musical idol, after all – despite a more obvious location being Minnesota, where he was born. ‘I’m glad that my archives, which have been collected all these years, have finally found a home,’ he said of the decision for the archives’ move to Tulsa in 2013. Now, thanks to the top-to-toe exhibition and architectural design from Olson Kundig, Tulsa is set to become a somewhat unlikely pilgrimage for Dylan devotees.

Portrait of Bob Dylan in 1966

Bob Dylan in 1966.

(Image credit: TBC)

This is a ‘deeply meaningful’ project for architecture design principal Tom Kundig. ‘We are not only acting as architectural support to Bob’s transformational legacy and creative, disciplined force,’ he explains, ‘but we are also helping to preserve the teaching value of his legacy for future generations.’

Though not much has yet been unveiled about the design itself, Alan Maskin – design principal of exhibits for Olson Kundig – has revealed that he has long been inspired by Dylan’s ‘the times they are a-changing’ attitude, and his penchant for self-regeneration. ‘Since the 1960s, I have been inspired by the role that change and reinvention have played in the creative life of Bob Dylan.’ If previous Olson Kundig cultural buildings are anything to go by, we can expect innovative exhibition layouts, concrete structuring and lots (and lots) of glass.

The pairing of Olson Kundig and Dylan is a creatively cohesive one. The Seattle-based design practice was founded on the idea that buildings can serve as a connector between culture and people; a bridge Dylan has also crossed through his songs. In the lyrical master’s own majestic words, ‘May you have a strong foundation, when the winds of changes shift.’ We look forward to seeing foundations firmly rooted in the Bob Dylan Center, and open to all.


For more information, visit the Bob Dylan Archive website, and the Olson Kundig Architects website

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.