December 1, 2005

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial
(File Number 5907)

The Commission was asked to review the design concept for the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial. The proposed memorial will honor the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and be located on a four-acre site in West Potomac Park on the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin near the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. The site, approved by NCPC in 1999, has views of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. The proposed design features a mountain of despair stone entryway; a stone of hope engraved with Dr. King’s image; a semi-circular crescent-shaped wall that includes a memorial walk, 15 private niches with excerpts from Dr. King’s orations, and water flowing down over inscribed granite panels.

The Commission commented favorably on the overall design concept for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial with three exceptions:
• The memorial walk’s horizontal bridge which lies adjacent to the mountain of despair. The Commission felt that, as designed, the bridge underwhelms the impact and strong visual relationship between the mountain of despair and the stone of hope.
• The entrance portal between the two stones that comprise the mountain of despair. Currently the entryway through the mountain of despair is 12 feet wide. The Commission believes that this narrow portal, with inscriptions engraved on its two stone sides, could function as an impediment to traffic flow into the memorial.
• The Ranger and Information Kiosk.

To address these concerns, the Commission recommended that the National Park Service and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. consider three things as they develop the memorial’s preliminary design plans:
• Redesign the entryway located between the mountain of despair’s two stones by removing the memorial walk’s bridge and providing greater space for visitor flow.
• Provide photo simulations that show more clearly the potential visual impact of the proposed memorial’s berm on views to the Tidal Basin and beyond.
• Coordinate on the Ranger and Visitor Information Kiosk’s size, location, and programmatic requirements.

See the Commission Action and Staff Recommendation

Delegated Decisions: Projects for which the Commission delegated decision-making authority to the Chairman, Executive Committee, or Executive Director.