Upcoming green roof project The REACH expected to be technical masterpiece

Posted on Wednesday 27 February, 2019

Rendering The REACHJohn F. Kennedy Center’s upcoming REACH expansion in Washington D.C is expected to be a state of the art project. The project incorporates an expansive landscape over structure inviting visitors to enjoy every bit of the REACH. The Steven Holl Architects-designed project is planned to open in September 2019. 

Sempergreen USA is working together with several partners on a technical masterpiece in creating a three-dimensional cork-screw green roof for the public area of the project as never seen before.

Spectacular fusion of building, landscape and river

As the living memorial that bears his name, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts fulfills the vital mission of John F. Kennedy to set the artist free. Free to reach beyond hallowed halls and sacred walls into creative open spaces where audiences can reach back and connect with the art and the artist who created it. As the institution enters its fifth decade, the expansion project The REACH will be a living theater where the community can engage and interact with artists and their creative output in inspired and meaningful ways. Steven Holl Architects envisions the expansion of the building to fuse with the landscape and river. The varied gardens will provide opportunities for casual performances and events.

Rendering of The REACH
Rendering of The REACH. Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects.

Greening the impossible: Three-dimensional cork-screw green roof

The open and engaging landscape will provide small and intimate spaces to gather and visit at all times of the day. For this visually attractive landscape Steven Holl Architects created a three-dimensional green roof/wall design. It starts as a flat green roof, and then rotates into a vertical wall. Geoffrey Valentino - Landscape Architect from Edmund D. Hollander Designs - proposed the project to the collaborative team of American Hydrotech and Sempergreen USA to take on the task of ‘greening the impossible’. They first shook their heads. But Valentino was persistent and convinced both companies that it could be done if they designed and collaborate together.

Check out the live construction webcam HERE

Three-dimensional cork-screw green roof/ green wallThree-dimensional cork-screw green roof/ green wall








Three different plant palettes and merging soil mixtures

American Hydrotech took on the responsibility of water proofing and designed a soil stabilization system that can move in a fluid-like motion from flat to vertical while rotating like a corkscrew. Sempergreen USA and the Landscape Architect designed Sedum blankets into 3 different plant palettes. For the most vertical sections of the roof where it becomes a wall another partnership of Sempergreen USA and Knauf Urbanscape designed a soil mix that starts with Lite-Top soil from American Hydrotech and merges slowly into a Lite-Top/Urbanscape mineral wool mixture which in turn merges slowly into the vertical section that has 100% green wall mineral wool from Urbanscape inside the Hydrotech soil stabilization system. 

Experimental mock up ‘The Ramp’  Experimental mock up 'The Ramp'

James Myers Roofing is the roofer that has to put all the pieces together into a finished project for general contractor Whiting-Turner. It’s a monumental task. Nothing is straight, just mapping and calculating surfaces is extremely difficult to do on two-dimensional drawings that need to represent three-dimensional shapes. To properly prepare, Myers, Hydrotrech and Sempergreen built a JFK mock up called ‘The Ramp’. Monthly visits from the Landscape Architect, the General Contractor and Myers to the Sedum slope gave everyone confidence that it can be done. The Ramp is an actual replication of all the possible angles of the design and has been growing successfully at the Sempergreen farm in Culpeper, working out any bugs and discovering any practical problems along the way.

SemperGreenwall Irrigation System has proven itself

To irrigate the vertical parts of the Sedum roof/wall, the web-based Irrigation Management System for outdoor SemperGreenwalls will be applied. Thus far, the system has proven itself on The Ramp as the plants are healthy and alive. For this project 16 groups of irrigation with attached drip lines and sprinklers will supply water year-round. Sempergreen USA cannot wait until spring when they have to roll up our sleeves, and together with American Hydrotech and James Myers Roofing oversee and install the final piece of green art into place.   

Project details

Client: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 

Architect: Steven Holl Architects 

General Contractor: Whiting-Turner 

Landscape Architect: Edmund D. Hollander Designs 

Roofing: James Myers Roofing 

Water Proofing: American Hydrotech 

Soil: Urbanscape 

Green roof/wall: Sempergreen USA