Israeli Lounge
Visitor Lounge at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  
Washington, D.C.  
Competition May 2008

Contrasting the upward pull of light and the earth-bound weight of stone, the Israeli lounge design is an exercise in rich materiality and wholeness, creating a meeting place that is at once elegant and intimate, re-envisioning this well-known meeting place for supporters of the Kennedy Center. Warm, honey-beige hues of stone glow with light, polished floors reflecting and soften the atmosphere. The space impresses us at once with its verticality and cultivates a sense of our own diminutive stature within. The concept of the Dwarf and the Giant structured the development of a highly articulated verticality while grounding the visitor in the colors and textures that speak of karst landscapes, limestone and sun. One might feel dwarfed by this dramatic space, yet this feeling that may also cultivate a sense of intimacy and togetherness.

The lounge is organized as one holistic space without any interior partitions in order to maximize flexibility and cultivate the sensation of wholeness. The walls are formed of a series of slightly canted facets terminating in two glowing edges; a crown of white light hovers above the veil of stone. This crown of light is accentuated by eighteen long, slender strips of mortar – six on each wall – that have been extracted to allow a hidden light beyond to glimmer through. The walls themselves are created of long, thin members of Jerusalem Stone, oriented vertically to accentuate the broad upward sweet of the space and to highlight the play of angles and folds in the walls. The ground plane is a polished aged limestone which completes the tonal play of colors while reflecting the softened brilliance of the light features. Simple, robust, sculptural furniture inspired by ancient stoneware is moveable and lightweight yet maintains a sense of earth-bound simplicity in contrast to the delicacy of articulated lighting.

In the lyrics of the late Leonard Cohen we find the phrase, ‘there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’ Taken literally it is a prompt to play on the heaviness of stone with the slivers of light beyond, but it is also a chance to reflect on the special moments with loved ones, family and friends that make the bright lights in our everyday existence. The redesigned Israeli Lounge at the Kennedy Center should become a beloved space over the years - beautiful, inviting, contemporary and timeless.

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