“Up From the People: Protest and Change in D.C.” is a community gallery and Welcome Center at MLK Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. As part of an extensive renovation of their Mies Van der Rohe building, the Library sees the permanent exhibition space on the 4th floor as a central element of creating a more welcoming place for residents.
Rethinking The Future Awards 2022
Third Award | Exhibition Design (Built)
Project Name: Up From the People: Protest and Change in D.C.” Exhibition at Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library, Washington DC
Studio Name: Studio Joseph
Design Team: Wendy Evans Joseph, Monica Coghlan, Alexandra Adamaski
Location: Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library, Washington, D.C.
Consultants: Media: Bluecadet; Graphics: Workhorse; Community Engagement: Openbox
Photography Credits: Dan King
Other Credits: Fabrication: Kubik Maltbie
The 8,000SF space encompasses displays, films, music videos, public feedback opportunities, historical narrative, and engagement space. These areas provide vibrant, content-driven opportunities for community members to learn about D.C.’s crucial role in the civil rights movement,
local culture, and the drive towards representation in the federal government. A “community gallery” displays highly personal artifacts that tell broader cultural and political history.
The building is a historically protected landmark, listed in the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only Library in the world designed by internationally-renowned modernist 20th-century architect Mies van der Rohe and one of the few examples of the International Style in D.C. The building was completed in 1972 and named in honor of esteemed Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Library is a civic landmark—a destination and gathering place for residents from across D.C.
Interactive Tables: located at the center entrance area, low-tech, hands-on interactives provide engagement spaces that are social and creative, allowing visitors to learn from one another and connect past to present-day issues related to the exhibition’s “big questions.”
Architecturally the design strategy was to leave visual transparency through the exhibition to continue the Miesian concept of bringing natural light to the core of the space. We developed a series of bespoke armatures, using 1-inch tubular steel and oak veneered plywood as displays. With vibrant graphics and many opportunities for storytelling, the exhibits grab the visitor’s attention and bring them into dialogue with the history in new and approachable ways. We worked with the fabricator to create different forms, including curved panels, which were difficult to achieve.
The design includes embedded media and analog interactives that welcome the public’s participation, including interactions with Go Go and Punk music videos, two local D.C. movements.
Community Engagement and Programming: The Library’s long-term engagement plan builds on highly successful interpretive programs. Artwork and documentation created through these projects will be included in the exhibition, and the methodology informs the Library’s longer-term interpretation and engagement plan.