The Kennedy Center’s first-ever expansion opens to the public

Jackie Wei Green Jackie Wei Green Senior Communications Leader,Los Angeles
9 September 2019

Arup joined Steven Holl Architects in celebrating the opening of the REACH at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on September 7. Arup played a key role in delivering the first-ever expansion of Washington D.C.’s premier performing arts venue. This iconic and highly sustainable addition, on track to earn LEED Gold, will serve as a living theater, immersive learning center and public arts incubator.

The REACH is anchored by three signature pavilions that stretch across a sweeping, green lawn overlooking the Potomac River, forging a direct connection between the landscape and the river. The Welcome Pavilion, Skylight Pavilion and River Pavilion echo and extend the adjacent main building and link together below-ground to create an expansive facility providing classrooms, studios and a variety of multi-use public spaces.

Intended to break down the traditional barriers separating art and audience, the REACH is defined by its soaring open space, natural light and clean lines. To support the architectural vision while also meeting ambitious sustainability targets, Arup’s integrated team of engineers and consultants collaborated closely to develop a holistic building systems strategy that optimizes energy performance while remaining largely unseen. The strategy incorporates a range of performance-enhancing technologies, from a closed-loop, ground source heat rejection system, to advanced temperature controls and radiant floor heating.

The Reach at Kennedy Center views from river The Reach at Kennedy Center views from river
Intended to break down the traditional barriers separating art and audience, the REACH is defined by its soaring open space, natural light and clean lines. Image courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

The REACH’s impressive energy performance is facilitated by a combination of strategies developed by Arup, including a standalone closed-loop, ground source heat rejection system, which provides simultaneous hot and chilled water; and advanced temperature controls that enable different areas of the interior to be heated and cooled simultaneously without significantly increasing energy requirements. Using Arup’s robust in-house software suite, Oasys Building Environmental Analysis (BEANS), the team demonstrated that the addition of radiant floors would counteract the thermal effects of the Skylight Pavilion’s massive curved wall, providing both heating and cooling and significantly boosting comfort throughout the year while keeping energy demands within acceptable levels.

Arup was also involved in the creation of other signature features. The team designed an under-floor, concrete trench system to enable the building services to be distributed out of sightline, thereby preserving the integrity of the architectural vision. The project additionally incorporates a void slab design, an approach commonly deployed in Europe but used infrequently in the United States, that has plastic balls embedded in the concrete to reduce the overall deadweight and allow for longer spans. Arup coordinated closely with the design team to ensure that each component of the building’s systems was effectively woven into the slab system on schedule.

The Kennedy Center has been an important cultural touchstone for half a century and we’re thrilled to be a part of the design team to help shape the future of this landmark institution. ” Greg Giammalvo Gregory Giammalvo Principal, Buildings