Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Renovation

Washington, D.C.

Award of Merit


OWNER: DC Public Library

LEAD DESIGN FIRM: OTJ Architects, Formerly Martinez + Johnson Architecture P.C.

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Smoot | Gilbane, a Joint Venture

CIVIL ENGINEER: Wiles Mensch Corp.-DC


MEP ENGINEER: Collaborative Engineering Group and Engenium Group



SUBCONTRACTORS: Heller Electric Co.; Potomac Abatement Inc.; Berlin Steel Construction; Miller & Long (Structural Concrete); R&R Mechanical; Premier/ISEC Inc. (Architectural Millwork)

The iconic 1970s-era building has been transformed into a community resource, the project team says. The facility contains fabricator labs for learning skills—such as carpentry and 3D printing—sound booths, offices for other District of Columbia services and a new fifth floor that features a two-level performance and exhibition space. Restoration of the historic facade and replacement of exterior glazing rejuvenated the beauty of the original design, reviving a  downtown landmark, the team says. 

Creating the new open interior layout required a year of demolition and lead paint and asbestos abatement. In removing the original four cores, non-contributing masonry walls and unnecessary floor-to-ceiling stacks, the project team salvaged casework, granite pavers, furniture and historic brick to be repurposed throughout the building.

Creating the monumental stairs and new cores required cutting four 30-ft by 60-ft shafts from the roof to three levels below grade. Additionally, risers for the 200-seat auditorium were craned through an even larger, 60-ft by 60-ft hole in the roof. To connect new framing to the existing structure while preserving its distinctive cantilevered openings, the team devised a strategy to delicately cut out a middle portion of an original supporting beam, then thread a new beam through the opening. 

To place much of the MEP equipment in the lowest level—which was not accessible for large material and equipment—the team cut a 10-ft by 18-ft opening into the sidewalk near the loading dock.