Located on the northwest edge of the Tidal Basin, which is part of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial sits directly on the axis between the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. This tribute to King, which opened in Fall 2011, celebrates the ideals that he stood for—freedom and justice.
To light the most recognizable feature of the site, the Stone of Hope—the three-dimensional form of King that looks out over the Tidal Basin—the lighting designers, David Mintz with Randy Burkett Lighting Design, chose 150W T6 ceramic metal halide precision spotlights. The fixtures are mounted on two 45-foot-tall poles, one on each side of the sculpture, and include custom glare-shields, spread lenses, and neutral density filters to optimize the beam distribution and light intensity. To capture the appropriate facial expression and to provide the definition of the shadows that the team desired, the lighting designers knew that they had to set the light at a higher mounting height than the statue itself. Hence the poles, which are nestled into the cherry tree groves along the site.
Given the unique setting, the designers were aware of how this project related to the city and the network of public spaces, monument, and memorials at the National Mall. Whereas the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials are about lighting a statue within a structure, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial had a different goal—to illuminate King’s ideas.
Jury Comments: The lighting is approached like a theatrical performance, setting scenes and activating the public space in a way not expected. • Love the way the lighting creates a dramatic effect.