The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library receives the AIA/ALA Library Building Award 2022, alongside four other libraries recognised in this year’s edition. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Library Association (ALA) awarded five libraries with the 2022 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for excellence in architectural design. Award recipients must demonstrate design achievement, including a sense of place, purpose, ecology, environmental sustainability, and history. This year’s AIA/ALA Library Building Award recipients, selected by a seven-person jury, exemplify these qualities.
From the outset of the project, Mecanoo and OTJ engaged a wide array of stakeholders through an open, public dialogue that helped clarify the design’s direction. The team led a rigorous entitlement process with city, state, and federal agencies that included regular public hearings. Its extensive research throughout the process involved Jack Bowman, an architect who worked on the original building, and Charles Cassell, who led the successful campaign to name the library after Dr. King.
A central objective of the new design was to highlight the library’s purpose as a social gathering place and its presence as a community landmark. The design respects the powerful simplicity of the original building, a clear example of the architect’s distinctive rectilinear black glass and steel aesthetic, while reflecting Mies’ and Dr. King’s very different legacies. A unique strategy employed by the team is demonstrated in the application of a contrasting design idiom for the new architecture.
The new library stands as an agile vehicle for the many ways patrons access information. Four existing floors connect with a fifth-floor addition and rooftop garden through sculptural stairs and intuitive wayfinding, which offer a much more legible route through the building. The program respects traditional library services but adds a makerspace, café, and children’s library that includes a multi-level slide. The renovation also addresses environmental stewardship and is intended to meet LEED Silver standards.
As the highlight of the Washington, D.C. Public Library system’s ambitious initiative to renovate its aging infrastructure, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library offers a new sense of purpose in the age of digital information. The library’s landmark structure, originally designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, has been transformed from a 1970s cultural complex into a socially sustainable engine that drives the important exchange of information.
2022 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards recipients:
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, D.C. by Mecanoo and OTJ Architects
Adams Street Library, Brooklyn, New York by Work Architecture Company (WORKac)
Asante Library, Surprise, Arizona by Richärd Kennedy Architects
Cruzen-Murray Library, Caldwell, Idaho by Richärd Kennedy Architects
Indian Creek Library, Olathe, Kansas by Gould Evans
More information on the 2022 recipients here.
Image copyright by Robert Benson.