April 24, 2006


What to do with Dutch architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's creation at 9th and G Sts. NW in Gallery Place/downtown DC? Stirring debate is a proposal by Mayor Tony Williams to build a $180 million new main library several blocks away at the site of the old DC convention center, said the WaPo.

Even with a renovation of the current libarary, "you wouldn't be able to get a 21st-century library like you see around the country," said John Hill, president of the library board of trustees and chief executive of the business group known as the Federal City Council.

What's more, the MLK's design causes problems. For instance, ventilation problems sometimes cause temperatures in the building to approach triple digits in the summer, occasionally forcing midday closures and endangering such important historical collections as the Washingtoniana archives.

Yet the MLK building has its supporters. Another Gay Republican wrote:

"Take a look at the building. It's not pretty, but take a look at the "bones" and imagine what it could be. MLK could be the great library Williams wants, and it could be that library for less money than building a brand new one a couple blocks up the street. Why not use the architectural gem we already have?"
And Grammar.police said:
"I'm not convinced that a Modernist building is at the root of the problem. Nor is it apparent that a chi-chi, WiFi-enabled centerpiece library will solve those problems or serve the system's core underserved constituency. And even granting the Mayor's goals, it's not clear that the Mies can't be that building in the first place, at better cost and to the pleasure of architecture fans the world over. Or that a new flagship building won't undergo the same fate as the Mies, if the District doesn't address the substantive structural problems that created the mess in the first place."

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