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
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.