Holl was inspired by Edward Durell Stone’s initial design for the Kennedy Center complex, which stretched over the Potomac before it was changed in the planning stages. Holl’s design could address the Kennedy Center’s isolated location by creating parklike public spaces connected to the Mall by existing running paths.
Holl was unanimously selected by an architecture committee that included Kennedy Center board members and staff. Two members of the Kennedy family, Jean Kennedy Smith and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, were part of the panel.
With Rubenstein’s $50 million gift, the center announced a $125 million capital campaign — $50 million for the remaining cost of the project and $25 million for future programming.
Rubenstein’s donation puts him in the company of philanthropists who have funded the renovation of performing arts centers since the economic downturn.
David H. Koch gave $100 million for the renovation of the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center in 2008, now named the David H. Koch Theater. Gilbert and Jaylee Mead gave $35 million to the Mead Center for American Theater at Arena Stage.
The proposed expansion will be Rubenstein’s largest gift to any single project. He is the largest donor to the Kennedy Center ever, having given $75 million since becoming chairman. Previous contributions have funded education, outreach and programming.
Rubenstein hopes his donation will encourage other philanthropists to engage in what he calls “patriotic philanthropy,” or giving to federally connected nonprofits in a time of austerity.
“The federal government today cannot afford to do many of the things it would have done before,” Rubenstein said of his donation. “I hope this will encourage other people to give to the Kennedy Center and other organizations that have been helpful to our country.”
Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a Washington-based private equity firm, has been chairman of the Kennedy Center since 2010. He is known for buying old documents of historical importance, which he lends to educational institutions or museums. In 2007, he purchased one of the 17 remaining copies of the 715-year-old Magna Carta, now on display in the National Archives. He also gave $4.5 million to the National Zoo for panda fertility research and $7.5 million to repair the Washington Monument after the 2011 earthquake.
In June 2012, Congress authorized the Kennedy Center to construct the expansion project with private funds. The project comes almost 10 years after the Kennedy Center announced plans for a $650 million pedestrian plaza that also would have included expanded rehearsal and classroom space. The plan was shelved after funding fell through. This project is expected to take five years. Steven Holl Architects is working on the final design, which will then be submitted to various planning agencies for approval. The process is expected to take up to three years, with construction finished two years later.
“We are taking some elements of the plaza project and embedding it into this one,” Kaiser said of the earlier plans, which included rehearsal space. “But we are only building on the south. There’s nothing that would preclude the [earlier] project.”
The expansion will occur during a period of transition for the Kennedy Center. Last week, it announced it would form a search committee for Kaiser’s successor. Kaiser will step down at the end of 2014 and hopes that the capital campaign will leave a nest egg for the new president. He said he is confident the center will reach its $125 million goal.
“Arts institutions do better when the vision is bigger,” Kaiser said. “When you are forward in your thinking and expansive in your vision, people want to support you.”
Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.