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SO-IL and JKurtz tapped to design newest Cleveland Public Library

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SO-IL and JKurtz tapped to design newest Cleveland Public Library. Rendering of the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch's exterior. (Courtesy Cleveland Public Library)

Brooklyn-based SO-IL and Cleveland’s JKurtz Architects have been chosen to design Cleveland’s new Martin Luther King, Jr. branch of the public library system. The team was selected by the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) Board of Trustees on June 15, beating out other big-name teams including MASS Design Group with LDA Architects, and Bialosky Cleveland with Vines Architecture.

The winning scheme is laden with design flourishes that nod to King’s legacy and seek to bring people together.

Interior rendering of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. branch. (Courtesy Cleveland Public Library)

“We looked to Dr. King’s words for our inspiration. The table of brotherhood led us to our vision—a table large enough to host all communities,” said co-founder of SO-IL Jing Liu during their presentation before the board. “What we made here is not a static symbol but a place where people come together and interact.”

The “table of brotherhood,” a metaphor from King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, will be physically embodied at the new branch by a large, multi-use table at the heart of the team’s plan.

A staircase up to an elevated area will reference King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech and patrons can find the library’s future collection of Anisfield-Wolf books; those that recognize racism and celebrate diversity. A “virtual garden,” interactive “Freedom Map” podium, a “Living Wall” that projects rearranging words, and a “Virtual Garden” are all in the works for the new museum.

Rendering of a presentation area and bookshelves. (Courtesy Cleveland Public Library)

“SO-IL + JKurtz proposed a functional, beautiful space that speaks to Dr. King’s vision of social justice and equality. The Board found the design inventive and creative, with many features that can make this branch world-class,” said Maritza Rodriguez, President of the Cleveland Public Library Board of Trustees in a statement.

The city is now in negotiations with the architectural team, and no construction date or budget have been made public yet. The old Martin Luther King, Jr. library will stay open until the new branch is finished.

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