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The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Expansion

Steven Holl Architects

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Sara Johnson, Hanley Wood Media

Project Name

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Expansion


John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts


  • Design architects: Steven Holl, FAIA; Chris McVoy; Garrick Ambrose
  • Project architect: Garrick Ambrose
  • Partner in charge: Chris McVoy
  • Project team: Bell Ying Yi Cai, Kimberly Chew, Martin Kropac, Magdalena Naydekova, Elise Riley, J. Leehong Kim, Yun Shi, Dominik Sigg, Alfonso Simelio, Yasmin Vobis


  • BNIM Architects
  • Paratus Group
  • Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
  • Mechanical Engineer: ARUP
  • Civil Engineer: Langan
  • Other: Transsolar
  • Other: L'Observatoire International
  • Other: Stuart-Lynn Company
  • Other: Protection Engineering Group
  • Other: Edmund Hollander Design



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The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., was designed by Edward Durell Stone, and opened on Sept. 8, 1971. Steven Holl Architects is designing a three-pavilion expansion to the center, which is expected to open in September 2018.

Project Description


In his final State of the Union address, President Kennedy said "to further the appreciation of culture among all the people… to increase respect for the creative individual, to widen participation by all the processes and fulfillments of art-this is one of the fascinating challenges of these days."

As the living memorial that bears his name, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts fulfills this vital mission by presenting and producing the best of the performing arts, supporting the creation of new works, and providing innovative and comprehensive arts education to millions of people across the country.

As the institution enters its fifth decade, the Expansion Project will be a place where the community can engage and interact with artists and their creative output in inspired and meaningful ways, across the full spectrum of the creative process. Much-needed rehearsal, education, and a variety of flexible indoor and outdoor spaces will allow the Center to continue to play a national and global leadership role in providing artistic, cultural, and enrichment opportunities for all.


As a "living memorial" for John F. Kennedy, the Center for the Performing Arts takes an active position among the great presidential monuments of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. Steven Holl Architects envisions the expansion of the building to fuse with the landscape and river, instead of being an appendage object.

Steven Holl has created an innovative design that preserves the silhouette of the current building and provides rehearsal rooms and classrooms, a lecture hall, multipurpose meeting rooms, and an event space. Located south of the existing facility, the expansion will feature interior spaces with soaring ceilings and filled with natural light.

The open and engaging landscape will provide small and intimate spaces to gather and visit at all times of the day. An exterior wall will be a home for broadcasts and simulcast performances from within the Kennedy Center and elsewhere. A restful grove of 35 ginkgo trees will acknowledge President Kennedy's position as America's 35th president. An infinity pool will offer a direct sightline to Theodore Roosevelt Island across the Potomac. The varied gardens will provide opportunities for casual performances and events and other flexible locations for enhanced engagement, further positioning the Center as a nexus of arts, learning, and culture in the years ahead.

The Kennedy Center's connection to the Potomac River will finally be achieved, more than 50 years after it was lost in Edward Durell Stone's initial design, allowing easy access to and from the Rock Creek Trail and the Georgetown waterfront. The River Pavilion will provide a participatory, interactive space for small-scale performances, intimate concerts, poetry readings, and other experiences which are not easily accommodated within the existing building. It will expand upon and improve the memorialization of President Kennedy and his significant contribution to the arts and American culture.
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