Can D.C.'s Mies Masterpiece Be Saved Without Being Sullied?

Philip Kennicott reviews plans to modernize Washington D.C.'s aging Martin Luther King Memorial Library, the city's only building designed by famed architect Mies van der Rohe, and his only library ever constructed.
September 20, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In a public meeting held this week "to foster a discussion about the future of the library," a landmarked building recognized as one of the "most important examples of mid-century modern architecture" in D.C., the Freelon Group presented initial concepts to the library's board for creating a "knock-your-socks-off library," reports Kennicott. 

For a building that upholds the Miesian cornerstones of "right angles, rational layout and long vistas," one must wonder if "carving a large 'donut hole' into the center" or "adding a cafe space under its stern, classically inspired loggia" pays the proper deference the building's design philosophy and character defining elements. 

As Kennicott notes, "The argument will come down to how deeply one channels the basics of what Mies was after. If underneath the modules and bays was a more profound desire to give easy, direct access to knowledge, then Freelon's design re-creates Miesian ideals in a new language. If one believes he worshipped the grid for pure aesthetic appeal, then the new designs might seem to do violence to his ethos."

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Published on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 in The Washington Post
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