Kennedy Center gives sneak peek of multimillion-dollar expansion

WASHINGTON — If you’ve driven past it in the past few years, odds are you have noticed a lot of construction around the Kennedy Center. It is for the REACH, the first major expansion of the Kennedy Center in its 47-year history.

Reporters got a sneak peek at its progress Tuesday afternoon, some 15 months before it opens to the public on Sept. 7, 2019, and it’s full of soaring ceilings and expansive views of surrounding landmarks.

The Kennedy Center bills the 4.6-acre project as a “living theater,” “an immersive learning center,” and an “open stage” with several “dynamic, collaborative spaces.”

The REACH aims to break down boundaries between the audience and the artist, said center President Deborah Rutter.

“More and more, today’s audiences crave connection — with art and with each other — while artists and arts organizations desire customized spaces that nurture their creative endeavors,” Rutter said in a statement. “The REACH will fulfill many of those needs, all within a one-of-a-kind design that is a work of art in and of itself.”

The space will expose audiences to artists in process and work in progress, said Jason Moran, the center’s artistic director for jazz.

“I think sometimes we think of art — like in museums and on concert hall stages — as finished products, but never considering how hard it is to get something off the ground,” he said. “So here we’re going to break open those ideas and have time and space to share them with our public.”

American architect Steven Holl created the design for the 4.6-acre expansion, which preserves the silhouette of the current building while adding three above-ground pavilions, including a Welcome Pavilion, a Skylight Pavilion and a River Pavilion overlooking the Potomac River.

Design and construction of the expansion, which includes 72,000 square feet of new interior space, was estimated Tuesday at about $175 million.

Features of the REACH include:

  • A 2,500 square-foot performance space, along with three new rehearsal and multipurpose spaces
  • 11 flexible spaces for performances, classes and other events
  • A large outdoor video wall, with complementary terrace seating for over 1,600
  • Art installations and digital enhancements that allow more interaction with patrons
  • A green roof and 130,000 square feet of landscaping and gardens
  • A scenic walkway connecting the center with the Potomac and nearby memorials
  • More space for an enhanced memorial to President Kennedy
  • Above-ground and below-grade connections between the expansion and the Kennedy Center, all in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • A cafe/bistro and 7,500 square feet of pre-function and event space
Dancers perform in one under-construction space during a media event for the Kennedy Center's REACH expansion (Yassine El Mansouri)
Dancers perform in one under-construction space during a media event for the Kennedy Center’s REACH expansion. (Yassine El Mansouri) (Yassine El Mansouri)
Kennedy Center musical director Jason Moran performed at Tuesday's media preview of the REACH expansion (Yassine El Mansouri)
Kennedy Center musical director Jason Moran performed at Tuesday’s media preview of the REACH expansion (Yassine El Mansouri) (Yassine El Mansouri)
The Kennedy Center's REACH expansion will have high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling views. (Yassine El Mansouri)
The Kennedy Center’s REACH expansion will have high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling views. (Yassine El Mansouri) (Yassine El Mansouri)
“Crinkle concrete” is acoustical concrete that was created for the REACH expansion. It allows for performance space walls that double as support walls. There’s only one column in the entire structure, and it’s a light fixture. (WTOP/Kristi King)
“Crinkle concrete” is acoustical concrete that was created for the REACH expansion. It allows for performance space walls that double as support walls. There’s only one column in the entire structure, and it’s a light fixture. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
This curved surface will be covered in sedum to allow for vertical greenery. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This curved surface will be covered in sedum to allow for vertical greenery. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The REACH expansion will be warmed/cooled by water flowing through tubes in the concrete, said architect Chris McVoy. Also note that the ceiling has acoustic ‘ribs.’ (WTOP/Kristi King)
The REACH expansion will be warmed/cooled by water flowing through tubes in the concrete, said architect Chris McVoy. Also note that the ceiling has acoustic ‘ribs.’ (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Architects show the media the area that will have the video wall. Kennedy Center performances from inside will be displayed on the wall for people to appreciate free from their blankets. Good acoustics are promised. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Architects show the media the area that will have the video wall. Kennedy Center performances from inside will be displayed on the wall for people to appreciate free from their blankets. Good acoustics are promised. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The expanded campus will create new opportunities for performances, informal gatherings, community outreach, and interaction between artists and audiences across the full spectrum of the creative process. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
The expanded campus will create new opportunities for performances, informal gatherings, community outreach and interaction between artists and audiences across the full spectrum of the creative process. The architects liken the design’s three buildings to icebergs that are connected underneath the surface. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
A view inside the planned Welcome Pavilion, which the Kennedy Center said will "connect visitors more deeply to the accessibility of the performing arts." (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view inside the planned Welcome Pavilion, which the Kennedy Center said will “connect visitors more deeply to the accessibility of the performing arts.” (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
A view inside the planned Skylight Pavilion, which will be home to a welcoming space with views of the Potomac River. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view inside the planned Skylight Pavilion, which will be home to a welcoming space with views of the Potomac River. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
The Kennedy Center said transparent glass walls will connect pavilion visitors directly with the environment, and invite passersby to participate in the artistic process. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
The Kennedy Center said transparent glass walls will connect pavilion visitors directly with the environment and invite passers-by to participate in the artistic process. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
The Kennedy Center said the landscape is designed to welcomes the community to enjoy sculpture and interactive art, meticulously planned gardens, casual seating areas, and reflecting ponds. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
The Kennedy Center said the landscape is designed to welcome the community to enjoy sculpture and interactive art, meticulously planned gardens, casual seating areas and reflecting ponds. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
A view inside the planned River Pavilion, which the Kennedy Center can be used as a cafe setting or a performance space. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view inside the planned River Pavilion, which the Kennedy Center said can be used as a cafe setting or a performance space. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
The Kennedy Center said visitors will be able to use the space as a place to gather and learn about the arts. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
The Kennedy Center said visitors will be able to use the space as a place to gather and learn about the arts. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
Among many other access points, a pedestrian bridge will connect the Kennedy Center directly to Rock Creek Recreation Trail, effectively linking all the major presidential memorials in D.C. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
Among many other access points, a pedestrian bridge will connect the Kennedy Center directly to Rock Creek Recreation Trail, effectively linking all the major presidential memorials in D.C. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
Here's a view of the planned scenic walkway connecting the Kennedy Center with the Potomac River and nearby memorials. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view of the planned scenic walkway connecting the Kennedy Center with the Potomac River and nearby memorials. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)
A view of the planned expansion of the Kennedy Center in October 2015, before constuction began. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A view of the planned expansion of the Kennedy Center in October 2015, before construction began. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A view of construction underway on the Kennedy Center expansion project from Jan. 9, 2016. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A view of construction underway on the Kennedy Center expansion project from Jan. 9, 2016. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on June 13, 2016. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on June 13, 2016. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on Jan. 14, 2017. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on Jan. 14, 2017. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on June 15, 2017. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on June 15, 2017. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on Jan. 16, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on Jan. 16, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on March 17, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on March 17, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on April 19, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on April 19, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on May 18, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on May 18, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on June 5, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center’s expansion project on June 5, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center) (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
(1/29)
Dancers perform in one under-construction space during a media event for the Kennedy Center's REACH expansion (Yassine El Mansouri)
Kennedy Center musical director Jason Moran performed at Tuesday's media preview of the REACH expansion (Yassine El Mansouri)
The Kennedy Center's REACH expansion will have high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling views. (Yassine El Mansouri)
“Crinkle concrete” is acoustical concrete that was created for the REACH expansion. It allows for performance space walls that double as support walls. There’s only one column in the entire structure, and it’s a light fixture. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This curved surface will be covered in sedum to allow for vertical greenery. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The REACH expansion will be warmed/cooled by water flowing through tubes in the concrete, said architect Chris McVoy. Also note that the ceiling has acoustic ‘ribs.’ (WTOP/Kristi King)
Architects show the media the area that will have the video wall. Kennedy Center performances from inside will be displayed on the wall for people to appreciate free from their blankets. Good acoustics are promised. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The expanded campus will create new opportunities for performances, informal gatherings, community outreach, and interaction between artists and audiences across the full spectrum of the creative process. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view inside the planned Welcome Pavilion, which the Kennedy Center said will "connect visitors more deeply to the accessibility of the performing arts." (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view inside the planned Skylight Pavilion, which will be home to a welcoming space with views of the Potomac River. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
The Kennedy Center said transparent glass walls will connect pavilion visitors directly with the environment, and invite passersby to participate in the artistic process. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
The Kennedy Center said the landscape is designed to welcomes the community to enjoy sculpture and interactive art, meticulously planned gardens, casual seating areas, and reflecting ponds. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view inside the planned River Pavilion, which the Kennedy Center can be used as a cafe setting or a performance space. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
The Kennedy Center said visitors will be able to use the space as a place to gather and learn about the arts. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
Among many other access points, a pedestrian bridge will connect the Kennedy Center directly to Rock Creek Recreation Trail, effectively linking all the major presidential memorials in D.C. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
Here's a view of the planned scenic walkway connecting the Kennedy Center with the Potomac River and nearby memorials. (Courtesy Steven Holl Architects via the Kennedy Center)
A view of the planned expansion of the Kennedy Center in October 2015, before constuction began. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A view of construction underway on the Kennedy Center expansion project from Jan. 9, 2016. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on June 13, 2016. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on Jan. 14, 2017. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on June 15, 2017. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on Jan. 16, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on March 17, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on April 19, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on May 18, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)
A look at the progress made on the construction of the Kennedy Center's expansion project on June 5, 2018. (Courtesy the Kennedy Center)

Construction on the began with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Dec. 4, 2014.

Kennedy Center officials also announced that it has increased the goal of its “Building the Future” capital campaign — which supports the design and construction of the REACH — to $250 million. The campaign has so far raised $170 million.

“We truly are building the future of our nation’s cultural center,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.


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