Steven Holl to Design Fragmented Addition to Kennedy Center

Steven Holl has bagged another project with more promises of “views and light and natural ventilation.” The architect has been selected to design a largely underground addition to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., which will consist of three abstract Carrara marble pavilions embedded within a park landscape.

Holl’s 60,000-square-foot proposal will pop up next to the existing 1.5-million-square-foot marble monument designed by Edward Durell Stone. The juxtaposition seems to be the main point of departure for Holl’s design: Abutting Stone’s “hermetically sealed box,” as Holl described it to Architectural Record, the addition will appear decidedly open and fragmented, allowing for less stringently prescribed views and spatial experiences. The pavilions are also designed to interact with Washington’s monuments, framing views of the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The park, meanwhile, is laden with symbolism: 34 ginkgo trees commemorate America’s 34th president (Kennedy), and a pool spans the length of Kennedy’s wartime vessel.

The pavilions themselves will provide new opportunities for the Center’s programming, offering flat walls for video projections and simulcasts. The $100-million project is considered modest in budget compared with the $650-million Rafael Viñoly expansion scheme proposed for the Center in 2003. Holl has actually expressed hopes to procure more private funding to partially realize the basic concept of the abandoned Viñoly plan: a bridge that will allow pedestrians to traverse a neighboring stretch of highways.

Images courtesy the architects.

- Kelly Chan