The Reach, now part of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. © Nicholas Karlin.

Performance Art

A long-awaited expansion of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts rolled out amid much fanfare in September. The imposing original building—an icon on the DC skyline for 48 years—is joined by a sprawling 72,000-square-foot complex housing much-needed rehearsal studios, classrooms and informal performance venues. In keeping with its venerable neighbor, the new structure also honors John F. Kennedy, taking its name—the Reach—from a quote by the 35th president: “I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings,” which speaks to the strength and power of cultural and artistic enrichment.

Designed by New York-based Steven Holl Architects on four-and-a-half landscaped acres, the Reach comprises three geometric, interconnected pavilions made of titanium-white concrete and glass. Because the pavilions nestle into the downward slope leading to the Potomac River, the interiors are largely subterranean—though skylights, cutouts and window walls bathe them in light. The pavilions shape the outdoor spaces around them, framing views of the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Potomac River.

A landscaped plaza (above) features a grove of 35 ginkgo trees and a reflecting pool. This space is slated for outdoor concerts and screenings, which will be projected onto a wall of the largest pavilion. Green roofs connect the structures and a pedestrian bridge spans Rock Creek Parkway, connecting the Kennedy Center and the Potomac riverfront for the first time.

Architecture: Steven Holl Architects, New York, New York. Landscape Architecture: Hollander Design Landscape Architects, New York, New York. Contractor: Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, Baltimore, Maryland.