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 towhat has been released before. The “red elephants”—meeting room pods proposed for the ground-floor Digital Commons—are gone, replaced with visuallyquieter 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.
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.
Sara Johnson is the former associate editor, design news at ARCHITECT. Previously, she was a fellow at CityLab. Her work has also appeared in San Francisco, San Francisco Brides, California Brides, DCist, Patchwork Nation, and The Christian Science Monitor.