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Special Report

Rafael Viñoly: Architect for Kennedy Center Project

Rafael Viñoly
Preliminary concept model - angled view (detail)
Kennedy Center Plaza Project

Rafael Viñoly
Preliminary concept model - rear view (detail)
Kennedy Center Plaza Project


WASHINGTON, D.C.- James A. Johnson, Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, announced today that American architect Rafael Viñoly has been selected by the Board of Trustees of the Center to design the two buildings on the eight-acre plaza in front of the Center that will be constructed over the next decade.

"I am delighted to announce the selection of the acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly for the Kennedy Center Plaza Project," said Johnson. "His concept for the Plaza clearly reflects his understanding of the Center and its mission. After an exhaustive search the Architect Selection Committee unanimously selected Mr. Viñoly."

Mr. Viñoly’s initial concept for the project includes a streamlined Plaza, two new curved steel and glass buildings set beside a central fountain that runs from 23rd Street to the Kennedy Center, a pedestrian walkway and a connection to the waterfront. Mr. Viñoly will work with the Department of Transportation to design and implement a comprehensive plan for the new Plaza.

"The Kennedy Center is a living memorial which needs to re-establish its connection with the city and its river," Mr. Viñoly stated, "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."

The Plaza Project will make the Center more accessible to pedestrians and tie it to the memorial center of Washington, while the new buildings on it will house the Center’s extensive education programs, interactive exhibitions focusing on the performing arts in America and expanded rehearsal and office facilities for the Center and The Washington Opera.

"Rafael Viñoly is a pre-eminent architect of our time and the Kennedy Center is fortunate to have him," Senator Edward M. Kennedy declared. "He has an impressive vision for the new expansion, and I’m sure my brother would be proud of the way the Center is fulfilling its mission as a national performing arts center. I commend Jim Johnson and Michael Kaiser for their skillful approach and diligence in guiding the selection process. Their leadership is serving the Center well."

Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams remarked "I welcome Rafael Viñoly’s vision for the Plaza Project. It will bring more green space, new interactive exhibitions, easier access from the Center to the rest of the city, and great availability to the performing arts."

The Plaza Project was conceived as a public/private partnership. In September, Congress authorized the expenditure of $400 million to the Department of Transportation to improve access to the Center and to create the Plaza itself. It also allowed the Kennedy Center to privately fund the construction of two new buildings. The Center estimates that these buildings will cost $250 million. The first major gift of $100 million, for the construction of the privately funded buildings was made by the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation in December 2002.

Rafael Viñoly has been practicing architecture for nearly 40 years and has built work all over the Americas, as well as the Far East. He founded Rafael Viñoly Architects PC in New York City in 1982 and has since completed critically acclaimed public architecture that has been characterized as having a sustained structural originality that transcends the passing fads of architectural movements. In 1996 he completed the Tokyo International Forum, the largest and most important cultural center in all of Japan, and has recently completed the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, which has already been confirmed as one of the city’s most successful civic gathering spaces, along with a world-class concert hall for the Philadelphia Orchestra. His current work includes major biomedical research facilities all over the U.S. as well as a new performing arts center for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, Leicester City in the UK, and museums in Cleveland, Tampa, and Raleigh, NC. His firm employs more than 170 people in New York and London.

"I look forward to working with Rafael Viñoly to create a unique arts environment," commented Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser. "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."

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