11-17-21 | Feature

Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Complex

Dan Dowd, ASLA, PP, Barreto/Dowd | Photography by: Trampota

In Newark, New Jersey, Comito Associates served as the prime consultant, architecture and engineering firm for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Building. They, in turn, selected Barreto/Dowd as project Landscape Architects who were tasked with designing the hardscape, softscape and site lighting for an extensive portion of the grounds, including this plaza and adjacent stairs, located within the Essex County Courts Complex. Hardscape materials included 8,500 square feet of Unilock Umbriano 12" x 24" pavers in winter marvel and French grey
This pedestrian promenade, named Legends Way, was designed by Barreto/Dowd as part of an earlier project, but, because of its close proximity to the new building, which sits on what used to be a parking lot and a 20'-wide landscaped buffer between the lot and the street, a section of the promenade required renovation. The Akebono cherry trees in the background needed to be replaced along with the bollard lights and 13,000 sq. ft. of 4" x 8" red brick pavers. To be true to the original design of the promenade, the team used the same paver size, colors, patterns (a rhythm of pattern changes from herringbone to basket weave) and the county logo. After fabrication, the materials for the logo were shipped to the site for installation.
At the West Entry Plaza, granite pavers were custom cut to match the dimensions of the main pavers and combined with them to maintain the designed patterns. The West Plaza required barricade bollards that met DOD approved, ASTM M30 K4 specifications. To accent the union grey bollards and define the plaza's edge, black granite pavers were specified, which were pre-cut to fit around the bollards. "Twig" benches and plant beds augment the area.
Illuminated hand rails were added as part of the firm's lighting design, which also included LED flood luminaires, architectural wall sconces, LED Bollards, in-ground and well lights and architectural accent lights.
White mountain was the color specified for the Grand Stairs and landings. Barreto/Dowd's design included embedded snow melting cables beneath the granite treads and risers to address the county's winter maintenance policies. All granite was custom cut.
There was an existing life-sized statue of Martin Luther King located at MLK Plaza but the landscape architecture firm, in keeping with the scale of the new building, proposed to replace it with one much larger along with an elevated granite base with engraved MLK quotes on its face. On the middle radial wall, MLK's famous words, "Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere" was included in the design. Both this engraving and the statue are enhanced with up-lights.
The tree pits along MLK Boulevard repeated the use of the dominant 4" x 8" red brick pavers in a 2' wide herringbone pattern surrounded by soldier courses. Big blue lily turf serves as the ground cover.

Barreto/Dowd was selected by Comito Associates Architects as project Landscape Architects, whose scope included hardscape, landscape and site lighting design for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Building located within the Essex County Courts Complex in Newark, New Jersey. Comito Associates was the prime consultant on the project and provided architectural and engineering services.

This wasn't the first time Barreto/Dowd had delivered landscape architectural services at the courts complex. The firm had garnered a Tri-State Community Greening Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for prior work on the complex's Essex County Plaza, Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, Governor Brendan Byrne Plaza, and 13th Avenue, which was transformed to a landscaped pedestrian promenade. The society sited the project as an exceptional example of urban public spaces and a comprehensive makeover that improved access to visitors and local residents, creating attractive public open spaces in a densely developed urban neighborhood. Barreto/Dowd also received a Historic Preservation Award from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office for the site and landscape design of the historic Essex County Court House located across the street from this project.

The landscape architecture firm's hardscape and landscape design included the area adjacent to the four sides of the new MLK Justice Building. The east side, fronting MLK Boulevard, contains the Grand Stairs, the re-designed MLK Plaza, and the entry to Legends Way/Pedestrian Promenade. The site's west side holds another plaza and service area. The site's south side includes the South Orange Avenue streetscape, and the north side comprises the re-construction of Legends Way.

Hardscape Materials
Included throughout the project was 8,500 square feet of Unilock Umbriano 12" x 24" pavers with color fusion in winter marvel and French grey. Granite pavers were custom cut to match the true dimensions of the main pavers in order to maintain the designed paving patterns when both materials are combined at the West Entry Plaza. Union grey and summit black pavers were selected to complement the winter marvel hue. Union grey was also specified for the color of the barricade bollards and the granite walls' veneer. The white mountain product was featured for the grand stairs treads and risers, which were embedded with snow-melting cables to address winter maintenance. All granite was custom cut and fabricated and included the engraving of famous MLK quotes on the veneer walls and statue base.

Redoing a Legend
Along the project's north side, a pedestrian promenade, named Legends Way, was designed by Barreto/Dowd as part of an earlier project. The area's close proximity to the new building construction required removing and reconstructing a section of it. An allee of Akebono cherry trees needed to be replaced along with the brick paver promenade and bollard lighting. Thirteen thousand square feet of 4" x 8" red brick was used to be true to the original design of the pedestrian promenade: same paver size, colors, patterns and the county logo. This entailed precision-cutting and installing

different-colored bricks for the logo's base, borders, letters, stars and a lion emblem.
Existing plaque displays of famous historic figures were removed and reinstalled along Legends Way after the adjacent building construction was completed. The recumbent 'Lion' and 'Lioness' statues which occupy large granite bases at the promenade entry, remained as elements of the original design.

East Side
The county wanted to retain as much of the existing MLK plaza as possible. Barreto/Dowd was able to preserve its fountain and keep the initial size and shape of the plaza in spite of the challenge of the proposed first floor of the building being 10 feet above and only 18 feet away from the original plaza.

A series of radial walls with sloped plant beds between them was selected as the best solution. The walls were designed to follow the radius point of the original plaza. The existing brick pavers surrounding the fountain were changed to French grey as that color was more complementary with the union grey granite walls and the building's design and materials.

The landscape architecture firm's recommendation to update the existing life-sized statue of Martin Luther King to one much larger, in keeping with the scale of the proposed building, was accepted. So was an elevated granite base for the new statue with engravings of MLK quotes on its face. Barreto/Dowd specified MLK's famous words, "Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere," to be engraved in the middle radial wall. Up-lights were selected to accent this engraving and the statue.

West Side
The West Entry Plaza required barricade bollards so covers made of black granite, to define the edge of the plaza, were detailed to fit around steel, union grey bollards that meet DOD approved, ASTM M30 K4. Summit grey granite was also used as the main material for the building entrance on the west side.

This plaza was enhanced by twig benches and ultimately softened with as many plant beds as possible.

Emphasis, by the architect, to design the West Entry Plaza highlighting hardscape over softscape presented a challenge to the landscape architecture firm since it is known for including a generous use of large trees and a variety of mass plantings of flowering shrubs, groundcovers, perennials and ornamental grasses.

The prominent plants, from multiple nurseries, that were installed throughout the area included deciduous trees such as Zelkova green vase, whitespire birch, Akebono and columnar Sargent cherry. Shrubs encompassed rhododendron Cunningham white, azalea bloom-a-thon white, skip laurel, and snow queen oakleaf hydrangea. Big blue lily turf was selected for ground cover.

Team List
Landscape Architects: Barreto / Dowd LLC
Architects Engineering Planning: Comito Associates PC
Electrical Engineers: French & Perillo
MLK Sculpture: Jay Warren Sculpture
Graphic Artist: Ka Creative
Photographer: Angela Trampota


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