CFA 16/JUL/15-3


901 G Street, NW
Washington, DC
United States

D.C. Public Library
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
Building renovation, alterations and expansion
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Mr. Reyes-Gavilan:

In its meeting of 16 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for alterations and additions to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G Street, NW. Expressing great enthusiasm for the proposal, the Commission approved the submission with the following comments for the development of the design.

The Commission members expressed strong support for the general approach of the project in balancing the preservation of this Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed building with the enhancement of the facility as a contemporary metropolitan flagship library. They endorsed the range of interventions proposed—such as the trapezoid-shaped rooftop addition, the transformation of the building's four cores, the conversion of the loading dock into an event space, and the reworking of the building's site conditions—as protecting the austere Modernist monumentality of Mies's architecture while adding vibrant new elements that are easily differentiated from the historic fabric. In their discussion, they suggested that the proposed green roof areas be simple in their design; they also raised concern that adding a guardrail at the upper roof would compromise the beauty of the design. They suggested that even more transparency for the core circulation would be desirable, revealing the expressive sculptural quality of the new stairs inside and helping to guide visitors through the building. For the site perimeter, they recommended restudying the conditions of the sidewalk and service areas, particularly at the proposed café on the northeast corner, to ensure a comprehensive and seamless design for the setting of the building at this prominent location in the city.

The Commission appreciates the work of the District of Columbia Public Library for its exemplary stewardship in reinvigorating this building to function as a public venue for the city and as a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As always, the staff is available to assist with future submissions.


Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Richard Reyes-Gavilan
Executive Director, D.C. Public Library
901 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

cc: Francine M. J. Houben, Mecanoo Architecten
Tom Johnson, Martinez+Johnson