Bruce Mau Design

Bringing a 20th Century Icon into the 21st Century

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: Bringing a 20th Century Icon into the 21st Century

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. is recognized as one of the world’s leading arts institutions. When the client embarked on The REACH, an ambitious modern expansion of the stately presidential center, they tapped Bruce Mau Design to work closely with Steven Holl Architects to develop the wayfinding strategy, signage system, and donor recognition program.

The 72,000-square-foot extension is comprised of three pavilions that house educational and rehearsal spaces and performance venues. The site also includes an integrated green roof that hosts outdoor performances and activities, including film screenings projected onto the central pavilion.

Building upon the community-centric programming and innovative architectural design for The REACH, our work began with defining the wayfinding strategy and developing clear and thoughtful information hierarchies and nomenclature across a complex campus. In the next phase, we sought to complement the tactility and elegance of the architecture with materials and design that would enhance rather than distract. We paired stainless and blackened steel across the different tonalities of raw wood and concrete. The extruded letterforms are responsive to the various lighting sources throughout the day. The result is a seamless wayfinding experience for the campus’ indoor and outdoor spaces, including interpretive signage, maps and the parking experience.

In addition, BMD developed a comprehensive donor recognition system ranging from acknowledgment of support for individual spaces to large-scale installations celebrating multiple supporters.

Through a deep partnership with the client and the architects, BMD was able to develop a signage system that balances performance, visitor information and donor support needs in a seamless world-class experience.

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