901 G Street, NW
Dear Mr. Reyes-Gavilan:
In its meeting of 22 January, the Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to hear an information presentation on the planned alterations and additions to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G Street, NW. The Commission expressed strong support for the intention to improve this iconic building—both a memorial to Dr. King and an exemplar of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Modernist architecture—to enhance the role of a contemporary metropolitan library.
The Commission members emphasized the importance of maintaining the original spirit of Mies's design as expressing universal space that permeates the building—including its details, finishes, and furniture. In their support of the initiative to reconceive the public programming capacities of the library, they encouraged creating more vertical transparency within the building, engagement with the ground-level terraces which surround it, and activation of the roof as public space. They suggested establishing a clear philosophical approach to the alteration of the building's historic fabric, whether following recognized historic preservation standards to restore the building, extending a Miesian design logic to new elements, or proposing more aggressively contrasting interventions. For example, they suggested freedom in the design of the rooftop addition, which could be an expressive shape to signal the transformation of the library from its conventional purpose. Finally, the Commission members emphasized the importance of sustainability in this undertaking, particularly in its value on a social level; they observed that the building has historically provided a haven for all members of the public, and they recommended maintaining this democratic use of the institution and its spaces.
The Commission concluded that the renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library can set a high standard for the preservation of mid-20th-century modern buildings. As always, the staff is available to assist with future submissions.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Executive Director, D.C. Public Library
901 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
cc: Francine Houben, Mecanoo Architecten
Tom Johnson, Martinez+Johnson Architecture