Greater Greater Washington

Public Spaces


Kennedy Center plaza back on the table?

DC Metrocentric reports that the Kennedy Center is again exploring the idea of building a public plaza and buildings over the "ramp spaghetti" that separate it from Foggy Bottom. Congress reallocated the plaza's funding to Alaskan highways in 2005, but the climate may be right for another try.

Update: Looking at that model, the fountain looks cool, but it would probably create another failed public space that's stately but empty. How about some grass and benches, and some cafes in those new buildings along the sides, so that residents of the area or office workers at the State Department can sit and eat lunch?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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I hope this can be implemented. It would look very good and get another highway underground to some degree.

by NikolasM on Jun 13, 2008 2:38 pm • linkreport

I don't think you can read too much into this picture. If good bike/ped connections from 23rd to the TR bridge and the waterfront, you'd get some good pass through traffic. The new buildings were to include an outdoor amphitheater and there would probably be more human scale architecture. It could hardly be worse than what is there now.

by DC on Jun 13, 2008 5:43 pm • linkreport

This plaza design is a testament to the grand automobile approach. Not very pedestrian oriented, and it's centered on yet another big, desolate plaza -- just like several other big, desolate plazas nearby.

The design criticisms of this plaza were hashed out when it was first unveiled. Meanwhile, successful, popular civic spaces have been built throughout the region -- the Navy Memorial in DC, Rockville Town Square and National Harbor in the suburbs, to name a few. This plaza design should be revisited but it probably won't because it bears a starchitect's signature.

by Laurence Aurbach on Jun 13, 2008 8:17 pm • linkreport

Let's keep our fingers crossed that this development can happen. I agree that it would be better than the isolated center that is there now. I also think the think the plaza be lined with cafes and shops to bring people from the buildings down to the public space

by Nick on Jun 14, 2008 11:04 am • linkreport

It's so close to perfect, and yet the high-traffic overpasses isolating the plaza ruin it so completely...

It would be really, REALLY nice if they could also cover over the overpasses, terrace/extend the inner sides of the two three-story blade-shaped buildings (with cafés retail, and stairs over the overpass, and go forward with the ampitheatre design in the fountain (drain it when there's an event) that was described in the pdf. Then, you could have a platform rise from the fountain for a huge event, and have an entire, public, additional, catered 360 degree performance space bigger than the Kennedy Center itself. Space for free rock concerts or political rallies with twenty to fifty thousand people sitting on the terrace of the blade-shaped buildings, or on the steps of the Center, or standing in the plaza.

All you'd have to sacrifice would be the 'scenic road views' enjoyed by automotives for the five seconds that they pass under the deck of the blade-shaped buildings, and you could ammeliorate even that by extensive use of glass.

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I'm afraid that the roads are going to kill pedestrian involvement in the plaza, and ruin the use of those side buildings.

Even for something so expensive/big, there is a hell of a lot of potential here for a worthwhile Great Place, not just a Congestion Improving Measure. I hope they don't screw it up.

by Squalish on Jun 19, 2008 5:28 pm • linkreport

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