Up From the People: Protest and Change in D.C.

“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 a recent renovation of this Mies Van der Rohe building, the Library created a permanent exhibition space on the 4th floor as a central part of their commitment to more inclusive educational opportunities for residents.


Studio Joseph

Practice Area


Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Washington D.C.

The Challenge

The building is a historically protected landmark, listed in the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. The design strategy is derived directly from the architectural intent. Therefore, there is visual transparency through the exhibition, continuing the Miesian concept of transparency.

Project Vision

The 8,000 sq ft space encompasses displays, films, music videos, public feedback opportunities, historical narrative, and engagement opportunities. They provide vibrant, content-driven discussions in an easily accessible area so local members can learn about D.C.’s crucial role in the civil rights movement. The topics include both the national movement towards ending racism and the D.C. drive towards representation in the federal government. A “community gallery” displays personal artifacts collected from D.C. residents that tell broader cultural and political history.

Detail view of “Card Catalogue” interactive

Dan King

Exhibition Plan

Studio Joseph

Close up view of east gallery, GoGo video at rear

Dan King

Design + Execution

The design is inviting, and there is a low barrier to entry, allowing visitors of all ages to participate. Part of the welcoming gesture centers on analog interactive where the visitors are provided with the opportunity to fill out card catalog-like cards posing questions to the Library. A “community gallery” displays personal artifacts collected from D.C. residents that tell broader cultural and political history.

Overall view of west gallery curving and tent armatures

Dan King

Close up view of west gallery

Dan King

Close up view of audio participation area, east gallery

Dan King

Close up view of the Freedom Fighter’s camp, east gallery

Dan King

Project Details
This exhibition is very memorable. People of all ages can look at our history of civil rights and keep pushing for what we want our country to believe in. The interactive elements can keep everyone engaged and create a space where others can come back to every year.
Juror 1
This exhibition embodies what it means to be a Community Gallery. By displaying local and personal artifacts, soliciting community feedback during the prototyping phase, and featuring participatory storytelling all contribute to a shared sense of place and history.
Juror 2
Design Team

Wendy Evans Joseph
Monica Coghlan
Jose-Luis Vidalon
Alexandra Adamski


Kubik Maltbie (fabrication)
Bluecadet (media design)
Workhorse (graphic design)
Openbox (community engagement)
Colloqate (content)

Photo Credits

Studio Joseph
Dan King

Open Date

September 2021