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Revealed: Mecanoo’s designs for Mies' Washington DC library

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Mecanoo’s early plans to overhaul Mies van der Rohe’s 1972 Martin Luther King Jr memorial library in Washington DC have been unveiled

The ‘preliminary designs’ have been announced more than a year after the Dutch firm –headed up by last year’s Woman Architect of the Year Francine Houben – won the prestigious project.

Mecanoo – working with Washington-based Martinez and Johnson – defeated rival finalists Patkau Architects/Ayers Saint Gross with Krueck +Sexton and STUDIOS Architecture/The Freelon Group to win the £100 million job.

OMA and SOM were among the ten teams initially long listed by project backer DC Public Library to redesign the 23,000m² Modernist building.

Mecanoo’s early scheme proposes upgrading the main entrance and removing existing masonry perimeter walls to create new sight lines through the nationally-protected historic landmark. A landscaped roof garden has also been mooted.

According to a statement from DC Public Library: ‘The architect team of Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo recently completed preliminary designs for the modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library.

‘While not final, these renderings demonstrate the amazing possibilities as we work to transform this historic building into a centre for learning, innovation and engagement for the district.’

In a statement, the practice said: ‘Mecanoo’s vision for the MLK Library revolves around respect for the original architecture while updating the building to a modern library that reflects a focus on people, celebrating the exchange of knowledge, ideas and culture.’

The statement continued: ‘Mecanoo, together with local partner Martinez+Johnson Architecture will transform the main entrance and two adjacent cores into focal points, creating new spaces and allowing more natural light into the building. Mecanoo’s proposal does not compromise the understanding of the landmark but rather establishes an elegant composition with a different scale and density, creating a relationship with the building and the urban context.’

The concrete, brick and glass structure was the only library designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who died three years before the building’s completion in 1972.

A large mural of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King features in the main lobby.

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