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Martin Luther King Memorial: MLK ‘I have A Dream'

Construction Facts and Details of the MLK Memorial


Martin Luther King Memorial
Photo by Ron Cogswell

Martin Luther King Memorial: MLK ‘I have A Dream’

The Marin Luther King Jr. memorial is located in Washington D.C. just southwest of the National Mall. It was strategically build linking the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The MLK memorial cost more than $120 million while the planning process lasted more than 14 years. The principal component of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial is a 30 foot plus sculpture surrounded by a cherry trees landscape design. The memorial was dedicated on August 28, 2010, day that marks the 48th anniversary of the moment when King delivered the ‘I Have Dream Speech’ at the Lincoln Memorial. Funding for the project was made possible by a Joint Resolution passed in 1996 by the US Congress authorizing the construction of the Memorial.

Martin Luther King Memorial: Footings

The MLK memorial was built over a very soft and damp soil that could not provide the required bearing capacity for the weight of the memorial design. A team of engineers and architects evaluated several alternatives, choosing to build the Martin Luther King memorial using piles, concrete and steel H-beams, driven 50 to 60 feet until the solid bedrock was reached. The memorial is built on top of a concrete slab serving as a pile cap, preventing the memorial from sinking into softer soils.

Martin Luther King Memorial Facts

  • In October 2009, the memorial's final project was approved by federal agencies and a building permit was issued. Construction began in December 2009.
  • The monument is the first on the mall that is not dedicated to a president or war hero.
  • The MLK memorial includes a large sculpture with two waterfalls served by below grade pump rooms. Original plans considered a remote pump room located outside the memorial.
  • The Martin Luther King memorial includes a 3,000 square foot bookstore and public facilities across the street. The building, which features a 12-foot roof cantilever, houses a bookstore and public facilities.
  • The centerpiece for the memorial is based on a line from King's ‘I Have A Dream’ speech: ‘Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.’
  • The concrete plaza is surrounded by stone-clad retaining walls carved with the most significant phrases from Martin Luther King. None of the inscriptions are from King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial includes 340 structural piles and a 2,350 cubic ft. granite inscription wall weighing 194 tons.
  • Hundreds of other granite workers protested the MLK memorial, partially because of the decision of using Chinese granite instead of US granite.
  • The surface of the MLK memorial is covered by, 47,000 SF of granite paving, a 30 ft. Stone of Hope/Mountain of Despair sculpture and the installation of 185 Yoshino cherry trees, 32 American elm trees and 16,835 pieces of Big Blue Liriope plantings.

Martin Luther King Memorial Professional Team

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. was created specifically to build the monument, a venture that has been more than a decade in the making. The memorial was built by a design-build team consisting of a joint venture of McKissack & McKissack of Washington, D.C. (the architect of record); New York City-based Turner Construction Company; Gilford Corporation of Beltsville, Md.; and Tompkins Builders, Inc. of Washington, D.C.

The Design of the MLK memorial was led by San Francisco based, Roma Design Group, selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries.

Martin Luther King Foundation

To date, the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation has secured roughly over $118 of the $120 million needed to pay the construction cost. Individuals as well as corporations can add their financial support to this effort. Contributions, large and small, are needed to attain our goal of $120 million and can be done by visiting http://www.mlkmemorial.org/.

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