Dear Ms. Donlon:
In its meeting of 16 January, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the proposal for an expansion to the south of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Commission approved the general concept, commending the presentation and noting the potential for a spectacular addition, while expressing concerns about the schematic quality of the landscape design.
In their discussion, the Commission members found the proposed architecture of the pavilions to be beautiful and well developed in detail, including the disposition of interior spaces and the exterior material palette. However, they expressed disappointment with the design of the landscape, which has not been developed to the same degree and remainsa poetic notation for what will be perceived primarily as a new landscape. While they expressed appreciation for the compelling images of the presentation, they cited various technical challenges–such as ventilation and egress, lighting and audio–visual systems, and the disposition of large areas of bus parking below the new terrace–that will act as constraints on the landscape and need to be more carefully considered in relation to the context. Therefore, they requested the submission of a revised concept with the landscape design developed to a degree commensurate with the architecture.
The Commission members also requested more information about how the Kennedy Center site would be treated at its edges where it adjoins public lands, including the infrastructure along the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge abutment and the extensive frontage along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and the river. They cited the remarkable riverfront context of the site, with its unique views, both from and to it, in many directions. Noting that the Kennedy Center will benefit from this visual and physical extension into public areas, they recommended developing particular public values that can be offered in return–such as improved pedestrian and bicycle access, the restoration of historic landscape elements, or other connections to the surrounding urban fabric. In the spirit of contributing as much as possible to the collective public experience within this important and highly visible setting, they encouraged collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, including the National Park Service.
The Commission looks forward to the review of a revised concept submission, which should include the development of the landscape design to address the concerns noted above. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Claudette Donlon, Executive Vice President
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC 20566–0001
cc: Chris McVoy, Steven Holl Architects