Renovating the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library viewed from the southeast corner. The library's facade features a promotion for Banned Books Week 2016, which had recently taken place.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. was designed by Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1972. It cost $18m to build and was a rare example of modernist architecture in the capital.

However, maintenance wasn’t kept up and it took 3.5 years to renovate. A documentary examined the modernisation, led by Dutch architects Mecanoo and DC-based OTJ Architects.

The documentary film follows architect Francine Houben as she investigates the past and present in order to design a world-class library. Francine delves into the archives, meets contemporaries of Mies and King, speaks to current visitors of the library, and participates in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Peace Walk. During her quest, both the building’s namesake and the original architect look over her shoulder critically.

Now I’m imagining one of those tawdry memes with Martin Luther King and Mies van der Rohe in a cloud looking down with their thumbs up.

Stream it below.

A Legacy of Mies and King - Renovating the Public Library of Washington D.C.

Mies related: Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion

(Image credit: Wikipedia, shared via CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rent this Mies van der Rohe documentary on Vimeo

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

I love a bit of modernist architecture and my favourite building is the Barcelona Pavilion in Barcelona. I loved it before I knew who the architect was but once I did, my eyes were opened to some of the greatest modern buildings ever constructed. And they were thanks to Mies van der Rohe.

Mies wasn’t the only modernist architect making waves at home and abroad but he was arguably the most influential. Buildings like the Seagram Building, Farnsworth House, 860–880 Lake Shore Drive, and the National Gallery in Berlin are referenced decades after completion and he gave us two famous quotes (although they didn’t originate from him):

In the documentary, Mies, a number of architects review his works alongside footage of Mies explaining his thought processes and philosophies. You can rent the documentary on Vimeo for £4.99. This gives you 48 hours to stream it on your desktop as well as iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast.

Stream the trailer below.

Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion (Documentary)

The Barcelona Pavilion was originally designed for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe but was demolished after the exposition ended.

Mies had a series of photographs taken of the building beforehand and thanks to these images, a group of Catalan architects were able to reconstruct it between 1983 and 1986.

This documentary details every innovate aspect of the pavilion, with quotes from Mies himself. Every element of the building had a purpose without the coldness of others of the era.

Innovation was the underlying theme, with opulence from the materials used (red onyx, marble and travertine.) As a lover of both Mies and the construct, I found it fascinating and learnt a lot from it.

Anyone with even a passing interest in architecture, design, or the modernist period will enjoy this documentary.

SeMies related: Another Mies documentary and Paul R. Williams: the Black architect of public buildings and celebrity homes

[36] German Pavilion | Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Happy 30th, Barcelona Pavilion

The gorgeous modernist structure with its refined glass and marble stoa was merely created for the exhibition as a temporary building and was taken down within a year.

Its architect, the revered Mies van der Rohe left no blueprint. Work began on rebuilding the Pavilion in 1983 with the photographs and drawings that remained. It took three years complete and now it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Barcelona Pavilion
Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of