Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo Architecture Selected to Renovate MLK Library – No Decision yet on if it “will be renovated as a stand-alone library or as a mixed-use building with additional floors”


From a press release:

“Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray joined Interim Chief Librarian Joi Mecks and members of the D.C. Public Library (DCPL) Board of Trustees to announce that the team of Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo Architecture has been selected to renovate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.

Martinez + Johnson is a District-based firm that has extensive experience with historic renovation projects, including DCPL’s Takoma Park and Georgetown libraries. Mecanoo is a Netherlands-based firm whose work includes Boston’s Dudley Municipal Center.

“Today, the District takes another step towards giving our residents the great central library they deserve in a way that helps improve both the public’s library experience and our library system’s bottom line,” said Mayor Gray. “I would like to thank the Library for selecting the best architecture team for the job. I also want to thank all of the people who provided input into the selection process.”

“Today, we take a huge step in helping to define what central library service will mean for urban libraries around the country,” said DCPL Board of Trustees member Neil Albert. “We’ve come a long way since the library began its transformation in 2006. I’m excited for what is yet to come for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library and the D.C. Public Library in general.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library will be renovated to accommodate 21st-century library services. The library, which first opened in 1972, has many systems that need to be updated or replaced. Additionally, many aspects of library service have changed greatly in the 40 years since the building opened.

“The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library is a good library, but it can be an amazing library for the District,” said Mecks. “Now that we have a design team identified, we can begin to envision the next chapter for library service in the District. Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo will work with library staff and the community on determining what services will be offered in the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. There will be more community meetings, more focus groups, more surveys and more crowdsourcing to come.”

Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo Architecture were one of three finalists along with Patkau Architects/Ayers Saint Gross with Krueck + Sexton and STUDIOS Architecture/The Freelon Group. A Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) composed of library, urban planning, architecture and preservation experts selected the final team, with assistance from an advisory panel, based on the team’s:

· Senior personnel assigned to the project and their experience designing and completing major libraries and obtaining appropriate approvals from D.C. and federal review agencies;

· Approach to managing the project, developing the project budget, managing the costs and schedule while ensuring the final design meets budget requirements and addressing key challenges that are inherent in the project; and

· Ability to meet or exceed the District’s Certified Business Enterprise participation rate of 35 percent.

In addition, community input was shared with the TEC and informed the selection. Such input included people in-person and online participating in the teams’ public presentations on Saturday, Feb. 15; more than 1,200 people posting and discussing over 100 different ideas on the library’s crowdsourcing platform; participant comments in 14 focus groups; and nearly 400 completed online and paper surveys about what residents wanted to see in a renovated central library.

With Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo Architecture identified, library officials will begin preparing a contract for approval by the contract review committee of the DCPL Board of Trustees and the D.C. Council. In addition, the Advisory Panel will help the library continue to collect input from the community on what they would like to see in their renovated Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.

Upon contract approval, Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo will work with library staff and consultants to determine if the project will be renovated as a stand-alone library or as a mixed-use building with additional floors. No decisions have been made on the type or extent of the renovations or additions to the library.

The total cost for the project has not been determined. Early estimates for the total cost range from $225 million to $250 million. The Mayor and D.C. Council have committed $103 million to the project in the capital budget.”

9th and G Street, NW

14 Comment

  • that rending is not “pretty”

  • Called it! (To be fair, I thought this wasn’t really close at all.)

  • Totally agree with the choice of developer. I thought the design activated the streetscape for pedestrians better than the other design. However, I’m confused about the uncertainty of the mixed use. I thought that was a key component of the design. Aside from adding density to the city, I think it’s a good idea to have some other stakeholders live in the building.

    • Do you really think we should focus on adding density to the city? I mean, if you spend more than five minutes reading the comments around here, it’s clear that people are dense enough! Other than that, I hope that new addition on top is a bunch of tiny, million-dollar condos.

    • They are not committing to mixed-use yet because it’s going to be a big fight. Ralph Nader has a group called the Library Renaissance Project which has opposed mixed-use redevelopment of libraries. They tied up the West End library for a long time with lawsuits, and they have been gearing up to fight this. They have already packed the board of the Library’s Friends with their people.

  • I’ll support anything that makes the stairwells feel less scary.

  • I kind of don’t get it. The rendering looks the same as the current building with some trees pictured in front and an additional unit plopped on top–am I missing something? Are they going to put in untinted glass? Someone spell it out for me.

    • The existing four floors of the library would be significantly overhauled inside to create better usable space; there would also be a new green roof that essentially would serve as a public park. I really like this firm’s plans. and I think the proposed roof addition looks both modern and very complimentary to the existing architecture. The full plans can be found here:

      • The popup looks ridiculous. Doing a decent renov with new windows and updated systems is really all the place needs, along with moving some of the interior walls, although even that seems suspect to me.

    • The original design is by Mies Van Der Rohe — and many would view this as an architecturally significant building. A prudent plan for it would be to preserve the facade in its original form, while updating the interior spaces to meet the needs of a more modern library. So ideally, it should “look the same” on the outside, but function differently on the inside. If the design can add green space, or more usable public space, or more flexible spaces in anticipation of likely changes in the ways that we use libraries, that’s a major bonus.

      • YES!!!!
        Mies Van Der Rohe is one of my absolute favorite architects.

        Beyond my selfish reason not to see this building altered, putting the public space on the roof is against the goal that MVDR was going for. Often his building had arcades on the fist floor that were the public space. It creates lightness around the building and allows a large building take up a much smaller footprint. It seems like DCPL may litterally be putting that idea on its head.

        How about just add on 4 stories that match exactly the original design, and right size the library to take up only as much space as it needs and then rent the rest of the space to commercial tenants?

        • To each his own. I strongly dislike the Mies design and would prefer they tear it down and start over much like the FBI building. But short of that, I think the Martinez-Mecanoo design improves on the functionality of the library without looking like a Frankenstein’s monster of aesthetics.

    • I agree, that was a lot of text to say nothing other than they are going to spend $250 million on a roof top addition. Whatever happens I hope that building becomes much more useful!

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