OvS was selected to develop the Martin Luther King Library landscape through construction, part of a team that includes Mecanoo and OTJ Architects.
The only library that Mies van der Rohe ever designed, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library is also Washington DC’s only work by this giant of Modernist architecture. As such, its landscape redesign gives a very fair picture of the work with historic structures often undertaken by the firm.
Such projects present a special challenge: the requirement to create a fresh landscape that addresses the needs of contemporary users, while also respecting the historical context of the building.
Two extensive green roofs, one covering a newly-constructed upper-level deck, total over 26,000 square feet. Their drought-tolerant sedum plantings capture stormwater, mitigate the heat island effect, and serve as a viewing garden, as these landscapes will be seen from the surrounding (and taller) office buildings.
At the ground level, the narrow, back-of-house terrace is expanded by the removal of a parking garage ramp. This new, exterior outdoor café space will include shade-tolerant planting, amphitheater seating, monolithic granite benches, and informal café tables and chairs.
Along the public right-of-way, street trees are maintained but their planters are expanded to contribute landscape to DC’s public realm. Re-installation and repair of large granite pavers surrounding the building reinforces a loyalty to the beauty of Mies van der Rohe’s original design, complementing the library’s enhancement with new shapes, colors, textures, and materials.
A 17,250 square-foot exterior amenity terrace on the 5th floor provides ample space for private events and enhances educational opportunities for the library’s younger users. Space is shaped by large-scale, intensive planters with floating wood slat benches, and they showcase a Native Pollinator Garden, Garden of the Senses, and Seasonal Viewing Garden.