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Freelon Group/STUDIOS Architecture Proposal for MLK Library

The Freelon Group, Studios Architecture

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

Freelon Group/STUDIOS Architecture Proposal for MLK Library

Project Status

Concept Proposal


DC Public Library

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Project Description


The Library not only serves the city and its people, it embodies the tangled complexities and wonderful diversity of the urban landscape. It is a microcosm of the city, imbued with rich resources that inspire residents to explore, connect, participate and create. It is also an intellectual extension of the city street—a public intersection where people share ideas and knowledge.
As this historical landmark building, inextricably tied to the powerful legacy of its namesake, moves toward a new, transformational library design, our vision celebrates the vitality of the people who move through and around the nation’s capital. Markets, parks and public plazas are the vibrant centers of our cities. As one of the most public of buildings, the Library must embrace the ethos of those types of spaces.
The corner of 9th and G streets is a dynamic intersection. Because of the staggered streets, the Library enjoys a high level of visibility, especially from the Verizon Center. Moving toward the building, residents and visitors alike pick up visual cues that something exciting is going on there. The color and materiality of new library spaces and programs are visible through and above the building’s restored façade. This effect is accentuated during the evening hours with interior and exterior lighting.
We are not designing a monument to architecture. We are creating an urban stage—knowledge parks and resource markets—that showcases people engaging people. We are desegregating the silos of information and knowledge by creating hybrid places for sharing and connecting at the core of the library—the street that runs through the building.

Even as we look to create the Library of the future, we acknowledge that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s legacy of transformation is embodied in its historically protected spaces. Mies created open vistas into and through the building that he then punctuated with finely crafted objects anchoring particular programs. This concept worked exceptionally well at the ground-floor level but has presented challenges as library components were positioned vertically on five floors. We believe in preserving this spirit of connectivity with new vistas that bridge the full vertical extent of the Library.

For more information on all three design proposals, please visit
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