Here are the five finalists for the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on Boston Common

The public can weigh in via an online survey.

Martin Luther King Jr. listened at a meeting of the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization formed by King after the success of the Montgomery bus boycott. The SCLC, according to Stanford University, had a goal of "redeeming 'the soul of America' through nonviolent resistance" and "was established in 1957, to coordinate the action of local protest groups throughout the South." FLIP SCHULKE/ CORBIS

Over 50 years after his assassination, Boston is set to build a permanent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on Boston Common, and officials are asking the public for opinions on the five finalists.

Each of the memorial designs uniquely portrays the contributions and legacies of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. They also provide an area for the public to reflect and, in some cases, learn about the man behind the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Work on the project has been ongoing for the past year when the Boston Art Commission and MLK Boston, a nonprofit working with the city, released an international request for artists and designers to submit their visions for the space, according to the project overview. In addition to the public art site on the Common, the initiative honoring King also includes the creation of a program “that oversees civic, educational, and economic equity programming,” as well as an endowment to educate and train nonviolent activists. 


Opinions on the proposals can be submitted via an online formHere’s a look at each concept:


“The Embrace” by Hank Willis Thomas with MASS Design Group

A view of “The Embrace,” one of the finalists for the proposed Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

“On multiple occasions, the nation witnessed the Kings locked together at the frontlines of a march,” part of the proposal description reads. “A monument that captures this embrace declares that love is the ultimate weapon against injustice.”

This proposed monument depicts the hands of King and Coretta Scott King that would stand 22 feet high, the description says.

Visitors would be able to walk beneath the enfolded hands.

“The materiality will further encourage introspection and action,” the description says. “In contrast to the patinated bronze memorials in the Common intended to be observed from afar, The Embrace will be a mirror finish bronze, reflecting the changing natural environment  of the park and the viewers themselves.”

An overhead view of “The Embrace”


“Boston’s King Memorial” by Adam Pendleton and Adjaye Associates with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt

A rendering of “Boston’s King Memorial”

King’s last speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” inspired this design, according to the description.

“The memorial is woven into Boston’s existing urban environment: parallel to Liberty Mall, its ramp and overlook continue the trajectory of the path that leads from the State House’s John F. Kennedy statue across Beacon Street, opening up to the Common,” the description says.


This design creates a space not only to memorialize King, but to give people a place to get together or for various events.

“Not solely recapitulating the past, nor solely honoring two monumental lives, the memorial will embody a broader sense of urgency and solidarity in the present,” the description says.

Overhead view of “Boston’s King Memorial”


“Avenue of Peace” by Yinka Shonibare

Rendering of “Avenue of Peace”

This memorial proposes a “memorial walkway, sculpture, and water feature set.” A large mosaic fountain juts out of the middle of a manmade pond, its description shows

“This interactive memorial engages the public with the story of their lives and mission, through a series of 22 inscribed benches and an app that visitors can download,” the description says.

The fountain would also include the Kings’ names with olive branches, it says.

Walking toward the eastern side of the monument, visitors would learn about Scott King and then, as they proceed along the walkway, they would get to learn about King’s life.

Aerial rendering of “Avenue of Peace”


“The Ripple Effects: Voice, Love, Non-Violence, Fellowship, Community, Justice, Action” by Wodiczko and Bonder/Maryann Thompson Architects with Walter Hood

View of “The Ripple Effects”


This design incorporates a pair of “Beacon Towers,” used to memorialize the Kings’ “continuing presence and inspiration” plus their “moral and social leadership,” according to the description

Opposite the towers would be a grassy mound with amphitheater cut into the side. The ground in this area would be rippled to “evoke the ‘ripple effect’ of the words, actions and leadership of the Kings,” the description says.

Running alongside would be a “bridge” that would have inscriptions of the important events from the time slavery was abolished right through the 21st century and the “struggles for justice and equality.”

Rendering of within “The Ripple Effects” proposed memorial


“Empty Pulpit Monument” by Barbara Chase-Riboud

Rendering of “Empty Pulpit Monument”

“My memorial dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is made of light, stone, and marble,” the description says. “The truncated stone pyramid represents their mission and collaboration, and the searchlight beacon represents their message from the top of the mountain they climb together.”

The design partially gets its look from a 17th century wooden pulpit and looks like the one Martin Luther used, the description says.

“This extraordinary object gave me the idea of an empty pulpit to symbolize Martin Luther King Jr.’s silenced voice,” according to the description.

Around the memorial would be waves cut into the landscape plus quotes from the Kings placed throughout.

Rendering of “Empty Pulpit Monument”