Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, built in 1969-72, is the city’s only work by one of the 20th century’s most important architects, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

The Martin Luther King Memorial Library (MLK Library) is a four-story steel and glass International style building in downtown Washington, D.C. designed by world famous German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1972. The modern building, designed for use as the city’s central library, is the only example of the architect’s work in the District of Columbia, and is the only library designed by Mies van der Rohe to have ever been constructed. The building, completed after Mies’s death in 1969 is also one of the last buildings designed by him.

Although Martin Luther King Memorial Library is less than fifty years old, the building was designed by one of this century’s most renowned and internationally recognized “modernists.” The publicly funded building is also an important landmark of International Style architecture in the District of Columbia, a city known stylistically for its monumental federal architecture reflective of the Beaux Arts Classical tradition. The Period of Significance for the building spans from 1965 when the initial designs for the library building were prepared until 1972, when the library was dedicated and opened to the public.

Located in downtown Washington, DC, the Martin Luther King Memorial Library is an International style steel and glass building. Ground was broken on the building in 1969, one year after the death of the internationally acclaimed architect, and the building opened to the public in 1972, after some construction delays. It is a four-story (above grade) structure of black-painted steel with glass curtain walls and a characteristically Miesian ground floor loggia, created by cantilevered upper stories. The building uses several design devices employed by Mies in earlier buildings, including the recessed loggia, applied steel I-beams to emphasize the buildings structure, glass curtain walls, and an open and flexible floor plan.

DC Inventory: June 28, 2007
National Register: October 22, 2007
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901 G St NW, Washington, DC 20001