The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. is housed in a 37,000m2 landmark building that originally opened in 1972. It is the only library designed by modern master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In his work transparency and light stand as metaphors for freedom and knowledge, the very principles of Dr. King’s life teachings.
Mecanoo’s vision for the MLK Library revolves around respect for the original architecture while updating the building to a modern library that reflects a focus on people, celebrating the exchange of knowledge, ideas and culture.
Mecanoo, together with local partner Martinez+Johnson Architecture will transform the main entrance and two adjacent cores into focal points, creating new spaces and allowing more natural light into the building. Mecanoo’s proposal does not compromise the understanding of the landmark but rather establishes an elegant composition with a different scale and density, creating a relationship with the building and the urban context.Strategic elimination of masonry perimeter walls that connect the building with its surrounding public space, the introduction of clear sight lines to activities throughout the building, and incorporating new programme spaces that better serve the community are some of the new library changes.
The glazed façade perimeter of the building is now for people as well as books. Even the roof becomes landscaped as a contemporary garden. From this place, spectacular views connect the building with its surrounding urban context in the heart of the capital of the United States of America.
The project is now going through the coordinated processes of NEPA and Section 106, with NCPC as a Lead Federal Agency. More information about the on-going process can be found here. The renders presented are preliminary designs likely to evolve as the design process moves forward.