The Plaza Project, conceived as a public-private partnership, is expected to take a decade to complete. In September President Bush signed the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Plaza Authorization Act into law. The act will allow the Department of Transportation to spend up to $400 million to create a new plaza over the Potomac Freeway, which will make the Center more accessible to pedestrians, bicycle riders and those coming from the National Mall and downtown Washington, D.C.
The Act, which was passed by Congress in early September 2002, will also allow the Center to build — with private donations — two additional buildings: an arts education center and one that will feature expanded office and rehearsal space. The Kennedy Center estimates that these two buildings will cost nearly $250 million; the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation has already donated $100 million toward the cause.
The education center will include exhibitions devoted to the history of the performing arts in America drawn from collections of the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute. Interactive displays — conducting an orchestra, designing sets/costumes, planning a concert season — will also be part of the new building. In addition to the education center, a second building providing rehearsal space and administrative offices will be erected. This building will also provide space for The Washington Opera, an independent organization that performs at the Kennedy Center.
Viñoly will work with the Department of Transportation on his design concept, which includes a streamlined Plaza, two curved steel and glass buildings that will be near a fountain that runs from 23rd Street to the Kennedy Center. There will also be a pedestrian walkway and a connection to the waterfront. In a statement, Viñoly said, "The Kennedy Center is a living memorial which needs to re-establish its connection with the city and its river. The creation of these two major complementary structures will enhance its already unparalleled cultural relevance and will redefine its symbolic quality in the same fashion in which the nation's capital has always honored the memory of our heroes."
Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser said, "I look forward to working with Rafael Viñoly to create a unique arts environment. His proposal emphasizes the importance of the existing Center building and acknowledges our role as a Presidential memorial. He has carefully thought through the needs of the diverse set of the Kennedy Center’s constituents and facilitated our expanded mission in a truly delightful setting." A practicing architect for nearly four decades, Rafael Viñoly founded Rafael Viñoly Architects PC in New York City 1982. His firm completed the Tokyo International Forum in 1996 and recently finished Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Employing more than 170 people, his firm is currently working on major biomedical research facilities throughout the U.S. and a new performing arts center for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, America's living memorial to President Kennedy, is the nation's busiest performing arts facility. For more information, go to www.kennedy-center.org.