Mecanoo with Martinez+Johnson Architecture, one of the three finalist teams of the competition along with Patkau Architects with Ayers Saint Gross and STUDIOS Architecture with The Freelon Group, presents a Next Generation Library project that celebrates MLK’s renowned Miesian architecture while embracing Washington DC’s contemporary culture and changing needs.
The renovation of and possible addition to MLK Library presents numerous design and entitlements challenges. These challenges are magnified by the size, location, and significance of this historic resource and by the potential impact of internal modifications needed to create a 21st century central library.
Our design will be informed at all levels by a continuing exploration of the existing structure to fully understand the original architect’s design intent, utilizing the previously generated analysis as well as our own significant expertise in preservation that includes mid-century modern buildings.
In transforming the facility, we will celebrate its strong characteristics of space, organization, appearance, and order while addressing those issues related to the functional aspects of a contemporary library. We will address building systems and materials, but this initiative is really about transformation toward successfully engaging all users with their library in a new and exciting way.
Restoration and intervention involving buildings of the recent past must be approached in the same manner as work involving older resources – through understanding, respect, and careful consideration of improvements. The differences between 20th century buildings and older ones mostly involve materials and systems and very different concepts of space and scale. Adding to an historic resource presents its own challenges.
The MLK Library has a structural and proportional system that could probably be extended vertically. An addition must not compromise the understanding of the landmark in any way – it should be a separate component with a different scale and “density” with a relationship to the resource where the original form is clear.