Kennedy Center Expands With The REACH

Highly efficient HVAC plays a significant role in the first-ever expansion of this premier performing arts venue in Washington, DC.

Arup joins Steven Holl Architects in celebrating the REACH at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which will open to the public on September 7, 2019. Arup played a key role in delivering the first-ever expansion of this premier performing arts venue in Washington, DC. On track to earn LEED Gold certification, this building addition will serve as a living theater, immersive learning center and public arts incubator.

Kennedy Center
The REACH at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC (Image © Richard Barnes. Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects)

The REACH is anchored by three signature pavilions that stretch across a sweeping 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 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’s 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 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.

“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,” said Gregory Giammalvo, the REACH project director and principal at Arup.

“Our team brought the depth of experience and knowledge needed to incorporate building systems in very non-traditional ways to support Steven Holl’s clear vision for the REACH’s interior spaces,” added Geoffrey Eddy, the REACH project manager and associate at Arup.

Arup was also involved in the creation of other signature features. The team designed an underfloor, 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.