Monday, September 22, 2008

Kennedy Center

I went to the Kennedy Center last week to see La Traviata and thought I'd take you along for a tour of the Kenny Center. Formally called the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, this building is pretty much hated here in DC for being ugly. Maybe I'm a contrary person (I'll admit it) but I sort of like it. Notice...I said 'sort of'. I'll explain why after a brief history lesson.It sits on the Potomac River just off the National Mall, beside the famous Watergate complex seen here above.The terrace off the rear faces the river and juts out over a busy highway. When you're up there enjoying the view you don't even notice a roadway at all!Designed by Edward D. Stone, it was completed in 1971 as the memorial to JFK. This is one of the few memorials that is nearly self sufficient through ticket sales and donations and does not rely completely on the govt for maintenance. Interestingly, it is funded as a part of the Smithsonian Institution. The center also has many outreach programs and is home to the national opera, orchestra and many visiting musicians and actors.It's an easy walk from Georgetown, and you walk up these steps seen above that were just completed onto a large side terrace. Concerts are held here in the summertime and it's a beautiful place to watch the sunset over the Potomac and Georgetown, seen below.I wasn't sure if photographs were permitted, but I snuck 2 just for you! There are two main hallways seen here below that lead into the huge lobby. It is hard to give you an idea of the scale of this building: it is IMMENSE. These hallways are so tall (63 ft.) and have a very elegant classical feel to them and thats what I love most about this building. It's not just a 'kleenex box on the river' as some call it! The Kennedy Center is a modern version of a classical building: All white marble, many columns and monumental scale.The main lobby stretches 600 feet long along the river with the large terrace I showed earlier cantilevered over a highway off of it. The terrace is always packed at intermission with patrons taking in the view, getting fresh air and admiring the many fountains. I love these modern 'snowflake' chandeliers throughout the building!
In the center of the lobby you see this enormous bust of JFK.Despite it's inception in 1933, the center didn't get any interest until the Kennedy's took an interest and got major funding for the project. When JFK was assasinated in 1963, the center was named after him. The total cost was $70 million dollars despite many donations and gifts, such as the 3,700 tons of carrara marble used on the exterior which was donated by Italy.
The building measures 100 ft. high, 630 ft. long and 300 ft. wide! The minimalistic detailing brings it down in size I think when viewed from afar and make it less monster-like - that is until you approach it!

16 comments:

R.J. Gilmour said...

Thanks for the tour of the Performing Arts Centre (the photos are lovely and so making me want to visit Washington again...we were last there 4 weeks ago...) I'm not a big fan of 60s architecture myself, but your little tour helps contextualize the architect's approach and what he was trying to do...Thanks...and getting to see La Traviata there...Yeah!

Be the change..... said...

I don't generally like 60s architecture either, RJ, but this one fits in the context. I have season tickets to the opera -they do a great job, and la traviata is probably my favorite opera!

Decor Fellow: James Saavedra said...

I wouldn't exactly call it a kleenex box. what would locals prefer then?

Be the change..... said...

You know how it is, James - you can't please everyone! If it was something more neoclassical you'd have complainers -same if it was more modern!

Pigtown-Design said...

I can't remember which opera I saw there, but I do remember it was more incredible than I thought it would be (the building, that is...)

Be the change..... said...

I was surprised too, PD. After 5 years of going though, it's grown on me. When I first went I thought the building was hideous!

lecaro said...

I'm sure you know this, but JFK died in 1963, not 1964.

Second time I've seen a mention of E.D. Stone in recent weeks, the first being the redo of his Huntington Hartford museum in NYC into a museum of building. Interesting project. I grew up in St. Louis and he designed a Stix department store there (now Dillards, if it's even still open) and I always thought it was the most monolithic-looking retail establishment I'd ever seen.

Enjoying your blog. Keep it up.

Be the change..... said...

oops, you're right, Lecaro! Thats bad wording on my part -I just meant the building was started in 1964. I'll rewrite that -thanks for the catch and kind words!

Kwana said...

Thanks for the tour. I've never been but your photos show it as interesting and classic. I like it from what I see. Beautiful

Anonymous said...

E.D. Stone's architecture was pure style and it was of the moment. I love all that he did and Im a totally an 18th century Georgian loving guy. The destruction of his Museum for Huntington Hartford @ Columbus Circle in NYC is a ludicrous mistake. And the new skin on his building is lifeless joke not mention the laughable suburban redo of circle itself. His buildings have an rare delicate esthetic with an appeal similar to a lot of luxury design of the 60s. I know of house he did in the 1930s for a friends grandparents and its fantastic! I never been to the KC but Im sure its very elegant, serene and chic.

Be the change..... said...

Anon, good way of putting it. I really believe that you can appreciate anything that is well designed from any time period, regardless of style.

Anonymous said...

I like the bust. It's cool to see what JFK would have looked like as a giant mud monster.

-P in PHX

Be the change..... said...

Haha, P, that's so true! I didn't even think of that - now everytime I see the sculpture I'll think of it as the mudman!

Decor Fellow: James Saavedra said...

I guess. Its always greener no?

pve design said...

As a little girl, the memory is etched in my mind, everyone sad and crying- glued to the black and white tv over JFK.
I on the other hand loved it because we all gathered together. People were sad, but close. Odd how tragedy can bring people closer. That structure is a solid gathering spot.

Be the change..... said...

I know what you mean, PVE. As much as I hate to say it, the days after 9/11 were really ones which taught people to be kind to one another. I'll never forget how people acted in that week. If only we could always act that way!