Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library

Since the District of Columbia Public Library selected the team of Mecanoo and Martinez+Johnson Architecture to renovate the system's central library in early 2014, the client and architect have been continuing to refine the project: a bottom-to-top modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and opened in 1972, three years after Mies's death. It's nearing the end of the road for the project, design-wise. The renderings seen here come from the latest materials submitted to the National Capital Planning Commission, which is scheduled to review and give final approval of the project's plans today. [*Update 10/6: The commission unanimously approved the design.]

To those who have been following this project, these latest renderings will feel toned down to what has been released before. The “red elephants”—meeting room pods proposed for the ground-floor Digital Commons—are gone, replaced with visually quieter glassed-in meeting rooms. The first-floor performance space has also been eliminated, and scaled back to a kind of stepped seating bar along the north wall of the Great Hall.

Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Great Hall with view of informal performance space. (Oct. 2015)
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Revision of same space, now with tiers of seating. (Sept. 2016)
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library View of Digital Commons from Great Hall (Oct. 2015)
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Same view of Digital Commons (Sept. 2016)

But many core elements remain. The auditorium, slated to sit on the fourth floor and continue through to the fifth floor, is in the same spot, but now features standard stadium seating instead of the U-shaped configuration that was presented earlier. The public roof space has also been reduced to roughly half of the overall roof area, and is now confined to the southeastern portion of the roof facing the National Portrait Gallery. The design for the double-height reading room on the third floor looks more developed, but basically the same. On the first floor, at the library entrance, the vestibule walls have been opened up along the south corners and replaced with glass, which would allow pedestrians walking past the library to see into the stairwell cores.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts is expected to review the project for the last time on Oct. 20, and then the library will show the design at a community meeting on Nov. 9.

Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library View of southwest core from main entrance (Oct. 2015)
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Main entrance (Sept. 2016)
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Auditorium (Oct. 2015)
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Auditorium (Sept. 2016)


First Floor

Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library


Second Floor

Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Teen library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Center for Accessibility
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Children's library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Children's library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Children's library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Community alliances space
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Slide from second floor to stair landing

Third Floor


Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Dream Lab
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Double-height Grand Reading Room

Fourth Floor

Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Special collections
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Special collections
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Special collections
Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Auditorium

Fifth Floor


Mecanoo/Martinez+Johnson Architecture/DC Public Library Roof terrace