Three Architecture Teams Will Compete to Overhaul MLK Library

The plans will be formally presented in February.

By: Benjamin Freed

The DC Public Library has narrowed down its list of choices to renovate its flagship Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial branch to three architecture teams. The teams, culled from an original list of 10, will present in February their plans to rehabilitate and potentially expand the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed library in downtown DC.

The teams are composed of Vancouver-based Patkau Architects, Ayers Saint Gross, and Krueck + Sexton; Dutch firm Mecanoo and DC-based Martinez + Johnson Architecture; and STUDIOS Architecture and the Freelon Group, the Washington Post reports.

Freelon, based in Durham, North Carolina, is responsible for widely circulated renderings last year that showed a revamped MLK Library with two floors of mixed-use space and possible ground-floor retail. The firm also designed DCPL’s Anacostia and Tenleytown-Friendship branches.

The MLK Library will be a massive undertaking for whichever architecture team wins the contract. The building, opened in 1972, desperately needs overhauls to its electric, heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. Its guts are caked with asbestos, and most of its windows need replacing. The District government plans to lay out $103 million over the next five years for the project, though a renovation such as the one drawn up by Freelon would cost at least $250 million.

But the library won’t be any ordinary remodeling job. Because the structure received local and national landmark status in 2007, the winning proposal will have to satisfy the Historic Preservation Review Board. The National Capital Planning Commission, as the arbiter of  DC’s skyline, also has some jursidiction.

The architecture teams will present their designs at a public meeting on February 15.