A monumental sculpture symbolizing the love and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King will be erected in the historic Boston Common sometime in 2020, according to The Boston Globe. Designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, The Embrace was chosen from a pool of impressive works honoring the beloved civil rights leaders; the 22-foot-high pair of clasped bronze arms rose above the fold.

King Boston, the organization behind the memorial project, announced the winning design yesterday. Cochairman Paul English told The Globe the decision was near unanimous—both the art committee and the members of the public who viewed the proposal on display at various locations around town, agreed it should be built.  

“The committee was really moved by it,” English said. “They thought it was iconic. People would come to see it and take pictures and share it. You could imagine people hugging each other next to it.”

Rendering of people hugging underneath of bronze sculpture

Visitors will be able to walk underneath the monumental sculpture and embrace the love of the Kings’ legacy. (Courtesy King Boston)

Not only did the selection committee and thousands of Bostonians consider The Embrace a moving work of art, the design would also be much less expensive and easier to construct than the other five finalists. Adam Pendleton and Adjaye Associates’ collaboration with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt would have brought an elongated steel walkway—part of which was cantilevered—into the park. Walter Hood’s project with Wodiczko + Bonder and Maryann Thompson Architects, The Ripple Effects, would have also significantly altered the landscape with a large, public plaza and terraced field.

Aerial site plan of memorial project in Boston park

The site will be split into two plazas and form an axis from the state capitol to the Parkman Bandstand, where Dr. King addressed the Common in 1965. (Courtesy King Boston)

The Embrace is reminiscent of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (a.k.a The Bean) in Chicago’s Millennium Park. People will be able to walk beneath the interlocked arms and gather in the public spaces surrounding the piece. It also provides a literal point of reflection for visitors and exists as a stand-alone sculpture that surprises but doesn’t overwhelm. According to a statement by King Boston, the sculpture and landscape call people toward empathy and action.

”Is there a more radical act of justice than love?” said Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “The choice to love your neighbor, to love someone that is not yourself, to go into a community and act is the foundational seed of social justice. To us, there was no better way to honor the Kings’ legacy and advance collective action.”

Aerial rendering of MLK memorial

King Boston hopes to raise $12 million for the project and other initiatives. (Courtesy King Boston)

With such community support and government backing—Boston’s City Hall has already greenlighted the project, according to English—the group expects the project to be built fairly quickly. It’s likely to rise in conjunction with an already-planned restoration of Boston Common, reported The Globe.

The nonprofit aims to raise up to $12 million for sculpture, which is likely to cost between $3 and $4 million. Some of the money raised will go toward the new King Center for Economic Justice in Roxbury, Massachusetts, as well as the local congregation of Twelfth Baptist Church where Dr. King preached and the couple first met. King Boston also plans to fund a 25-minute documentary on their love story and lives in Boston during the early 1950s. So far, $6 million have been raised.

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