2021 Merit Award

General Design

The REACH at Kennedy Center

Washington, D.C.

Landscape Architect:

Hollander Design Landscape Architects

Project Team:

Architect – Steven Holl Architects
Associate architect – BNIM


About the Project:

The REACH at Kennedy Center subverts the tradition of a performing arts venue. An extension of the iconic Kennedy Center for the Performing arts, The REACH is a unique fusion of landscape and architecture, blurring the experiences of performance and audience, choreography and chance. As the seasons advance, the landscape itself becomes a slow‐tempo performance.

Special Factors & Additional Information:

Landscape and architecture were designed as a single, living component at The REACH. Created as a living memorial to John F. Kennedy at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the REACH landscape and architecture function together performance art: architecture grows from the landscape, and earth fuses with structure.

The REACH is designed as a place where visitors, audiences, and artists can gather for collaboration, experimentation and exploration. It is comprised of an underground network for performance and practice spaces capped by a green roof landscape above for outdoor arts experiences. Visitors’ views into interior spaces throughout the site and views out from within are a key feature of its indoor/outdoor fusion of the arts.

The outdoor spaces at the REACH are comprised of outdoor performance spaces, dining areas, a Gingko tree grove of 35 trees planted in memorial to JFK as the 35th president, open lawn, permanent and temporary art installations, a pedestrian bridge to Rock Creek Parkway and waterfront, and a simulcast lawn where visitors can watch projections of arts events on the wall of the Events Pavilion.

In every way, The REACH is a stark contrast to the Kennedy Center’s monumental and formal experience. Multiple entry points introduce a sense of improvisation and discovery. Public gardens and pathways invite unstructured, improvisational interactions between performer and audience.

The REACH gives the Kennedy Center and Washington DC an entirely new way of engaging people in the arts. The Kennedy Center had increasingly struggled with the perception that it is a ‘temple for elite arts patrons’ with little to contribute to most of the city’s residents. The landscape, architecture and programming at the REACH dramatically expands the types of experiences Kennedy Center offers.

During its two‐week opening festival alone in September 2019, the REACH hosted more than 100k visitors during 500 performances and events.

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