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Mecanoo wins contest to revamp Mies' Washington library

Francine Houben’s practice Mecanoo has won the competition to revamp Mies van der Rohe’s 1972 Martin Luther King Jr memorial library in Washington DC

The Dutch firm, headed up by the winner of this year’s Woman Architect of the Year Award Francine Houben, teamed up with Washington-based Martinez and Johnson to land the prized $150 million overhaul of the Modernist library.

A ten-strong shortlist, which included OMA and SOM was whittled down to just three back in December.

The finalists were asked to further develop their ideas ahead of presenting them to a technical panel earlier today (18 February).

Mecanoo saw off competition from a shortlist made up of Patkau Architects/Ayers Saint Gross with Krueck +Sexton and STUDIOS Architecture/The Freelon Group.

The project will redesign the 23,000m2 interior space of the iconic library. Mecanoo will now investigate whether the building should be renovated as a stand-alone library or as a mixed-use building with additional floors.

The building is the only library designed by modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and opened three years after his death in 1972.

Houben commented: ‘We will pay respect to Mies van der Rohe and research what is possible to prepare this building for the Library of the Future. But most important is bringing out the values of Martin Luther King. My dream is to make this building to reflect his ideals.’

Librarian Joi Mecks added: ‘The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library is a good library, but it can be an amazing library for the District.

‘Now that we have a design team identified, we can begin to envision the next chapter for library service in the District. Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo will work with library staff and the community on determining what services will be offered in the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. There will be more community meetings, more focus groups, more surveys and more crowdsourcing to come.’

Previous story (AJ 29.08.13)

Architects needed for Mies’ Washington library revamp

A design team is sought for the overhaul of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s 1972 Martin Luther King Jr memorial library in Washington DC

It is understood the nationally protected landmark has developed ‘serious’ structural problems with its curtain wall and DC Public Library, the body responsible for all of Washington’s libraries, wants to rejuvenate the building as a ‘place for residents to explore, connect, create and engage’, becoming ‘the library of the future’.

Full architect and engineering services are called for and, though no decision has been made on the ‘extent of renovations or additions’, shops, flats and six storeys could be added under the plans.

A 2012 study proposed combining the library with a mixture of uses including retail and housing with hopeful applicants expected to accommodate these needs ‘while modernising the structure’.

Conceptual designs are sought to be developed with shareholders to include ‘innovative design, demolition (partial), new construction, preservation/restoration and/or mixed-use development.’

Proposals are due 23 September with a current brief available through the library’s own page.

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