Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial



Thornton Tomasetti provided structural design for a new memorial that occupies a four-acre site along the tidal basin on the National Mall. A crescent-shaped plaza is surrounded by curving, stone-clad retaining walls carved with inscriptions. Two large stones, the “mountains of despair,” form a gateway flanked by waterfalls. On the plaza, the “stone of hope” incorporates a 31-foot-tall sculpture of Reverend King. Our engineers worked closely with the geotechnical consultant to overcome extremely challenging soil conditions. The entire memorial rests upon piles driven to bedrock.

The water features posed an additional design challenge. Plans originally called for a remote pump-room with underground piping running to the falls. A design change added below-grade pump rooms beneath each of the waterfalls, with a 175-foot tunnel providing access to both. This required the tunnel to run directly below the massive “mountains of despair.” We re-analyzed and re-configured the arrangement of piles supporting the stones to accommodate the tunnel. The design of the tunnel itself was complex, requiring precise integration with many different components. Highly detailed and coordinated drawings ensured that the design intent was clear and simplified construction.

The project also includes a 3,000-square-foot structure across the street from the memorial. The building, which features a 12-foot roof cantilever, houses a bookstore and public facilities.

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