The American Memorial Library is one of the largest public libraries in Berlin. It was co-financed by a donation from the United States. American people had in 1950 donated $5 million for cultural purposes in recognition of the West Berliners' keeping up during the Berlin Blockade, which took place in 1948/1949. With the construction of the Berlin Wall and the separation of the city in 1961 become the building the major public library in West Berlin.
The building was designed by American and German architects, including Fritz Bornemann and Willy Kreuer. It was opened on September 17, 1954 and was originally planned to become the Central Library of Berlin.
In 1988 the City of Berlin sponsored an invited competition for a 150,000-square-foot addition to the library. The original library had been built as a result of a German competition with American funds. This competition was funded by the German Government with the ambition to select an American-based architect. Fifteen American firms were invited to participate. The jury selected three first prizes: Steven Holl, Lars Lerup and Karen Van Lengen. One year later after two additional rounds of refinements and presentations an international jury selected Karen Van Lengen as the final winner. By 1992, Van Lengen's firm completed almost 75% of the design work before the City of Berlin cancelled the project due to lack of funding. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall and its accompanying unexpected financial challenges, the city abandoned plans for the library expansion. On its 50th birthday, the library was honored for having been a symbol of freedom in times of political instability and the divided country.