Late in his career, Mies was commissioned to design the main D.C. public library, named in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. In contrast to Mies’s better known projects such as the Seagrams Building, a moderately tall skyscraper in New York City, and 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, upscale housing towers, the library is only four stories above ground. But all three projects display Mies’s trademark emphasis on a highly visible gridded facade. In Seagrams and MLK Library the facades had a strong vertical emphasis created by steel i-beams welded on to the frame.
Mies, who was awarded the AIA Gold Medal and Royal Gold Medal, among numerous other recognitions as a leading Modernist architect, designed the building from 1965-1966, ground broken July 1968, and the library opened either August or September 1972. (Various sources site different key dates for this building.)
The building very recently closed for renovation (including roof garden and floor plans) and will only reopen in 2020. Washingtonia Collection is at the DC Historical Society’s space at the Carnegie Library.
The architect for the renovation is Martinez and Johnson. The architectural historian is Traceries.
Top photo shows G Street (main facade at left) and 9th Street side. Bottom photo showing I beams detail on 9th Street. photos copyrighted by Bill Lebovich, 2017