Renovation of the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater included an artful transformation of the interior aesthetics as well as technical solutions to address accessibility, life safety, acoustics, lighting, and ventilation.

In the third major design project for the Kennedy Center, Quinn Evans Architects created a completely new theatrical space with sophisticated finishes, updated systems and technology, and reconfigured seating that enhances the venue’s sense of intimacy while improving theater operations.


  • Modernized national theater
  • Enhanced venue’s intimacy
  • 1,142 seat theater
  • Opened in 1971
  • Originally designed by Edward Durrell Stone


  • 2009 Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design, AIA | DC
  • 2009 BD+C Reconstruction Gold Award

© Ron Blunt Photography

Designed for Intimacy

The smallest of the Kennedy Center’s three major stages, the Eisenhower hosts drama, musical and dance performances. The design solution was focused on emphasizing a sense of intimacy within this venue. Balconies were reshaped to create a softer line and bring the audience closer to the stage, while cascading wall sconces create a sense of movement toward the stage. To reinforce the traditional relationship between audience and performers, the forestage was reconfigured to create a true proscenium arch. The new color palette of blue, gold, and warm wood tones warmly welcome visitors.

People entering the Eisenhower Theater will no longer be greeted by that screaming red interior (so yesterday) and instead step into a cool blue that softly says ‘today’.

Jaqueline Trescott, The Washington Post

© Ron Blunt Photography

Sustaining the Drama

The Eisenhower Theater has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects | DC Chapter with a Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design. While the project not required to achieve LEED certification, QEA took a green approach to the project. Sustainable design features included use of FSC certified ash veneer and 100% recycled content seat fabric. The original seats were donated for reuse in a regional theater. High-efficiency lamps and lighting fixtures were used, and automatic controls were integrated to improve lighting quality and illuminance levels while reducing lighting power. Incorporation of VAV systems into the existing house and stage mechanical systems saved fan, cooling, and reheating energy. Water conserving fixtures increased water efficiency.