PVA Architecture Case Study: The Reach at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 
Washington, DC

The Reach at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Steven Holl Architects, is a significant programmatic addition to the 1971 Kennedy Center complex. The driving force of the Reach project was to create multi-functional spaces where performers and members of the public can interact to explore music, dance, and other performing arts. The project added classroom, rehearsal, performance, and meeting spaces and opened in September 2019.

PVA Architecture was invited to be part of the design process due to our long-standing relationship with the Kennedy Center. For The Reach, we consulted on accessibility issues by attending critical meetings and presentations and reviewing drawings at multiple design stages.

The majority of the new spaces at the Reach are underground below an open landscaped plaza that includes a reflecting pool, tree grove, and sloped lawn area for outdoor performances. The spaces are interconnected with gently sloped pathways, ramps, and vertical transportation to provide accessibility.


  • 60,000 sq. ft. expansion on four acres in the Kennedy Center’s South Plaza.
  • Three above-ground pavilions (the Entrance Pavilion, the River Pavilion, and the Skylight Pavilion) provide sculptural relief to the open landscape.
  • Paved walkways connect to adjacent promenade to create an integrated and cohesive Kennedy Center experience.
  • Accessible pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek Parkway provides direct access to river front promenade below.
  • Elevators connect all levels to the parking garage below.

How PVA Improved Accessibility:

  • Added second elevator to reduce horizontal travel distances between vertical transportation points that connect all levels.
  • Minimized slope at wheelchair seating areas for outdoor performances.
  • Reduced slope on accessible pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek Parkway connects to river front promenade below.
  • Improved accessibility of lower-level bathrooms by providing wider clearances for greater maneuverability.

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