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Architect Ron Wiendl Discusses Expansion Plans For West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center

The Kravis Center is getting a $50 million expansion.

The performing arts center in West Palm Beach is currently undergoing a two-year renovation, expanding the Dreyfoos Hall lobby, implementing new technology throughout the center and building a pedestrian-friendly urban plaza, as well as a new valet garage.

We spoke with architect Ron Wiendl, the director of design at LEO A DALY’s West Palm Beach studio. LEO A DALY is the architecture and design firm behind the Kravis Center’s expansion project. Highlights from our conversation are below. 

Why was your company chosen for the project?

I’d say the big reason is we were the associate architects for the original performing arts center. It only made sense to bring us in. Plus, the fact that we had just finished a parking garage right across the street from the [Kravis Center], which was a 2,500 car parking structure.

How is LEO A DALY ensuring that the expansion is staying true to the Kravis Center’s style and brand?

We were tasked to expand the lobby, and the lobby is essentially the whole front facade or the south portion of the building. A lot of architects could’ve gone in there and said, “OK, we’re going to make this our signature architecture for ourselves,” but we felt it was really important that if we were going to expand on this building that the final result would look like it was the original intent of the building, or part of the original architecture of the building. In other words, that whole glass curtain wall that’s on the south end of the facade is just being pulled out about 20 to 30 feet, and we really didn’t do anything to touch the roof lines of the building. It really keeps the character. It’s as close as possible to the original intent of the architecture. 

Why is the Kravis Center going through an expansion?

I’ll give you the real reason a lot of this is being done: When you go to a performance right now, there’s a real traffic issue. Not just for the Kravis Center itself, but also for the neighbors. Adding this new valet parking garage and a new parking ramp on the existing parking garage was a means and method to really take the entry and egress of any show that goes on.

It’s pushing it further apart from each other, rather than having everyone come up at the same place and really have cross traffic going on. The expansion for the garage and for the ramp on the garage are really ways to help alleviate the parking issues that the Kravis Center goes through now. 

The other thing is the main lobby. The main lobby, when it was originally designed, was kind of undersized for the size of the facility. It has a food and beverage area that’s right smack-dab in the middle and it’s right up against that existing glass curtain wall. One of the reasons of expanding it 20 to 30 feet out was to give it some breathing room in there.

What is the new plaza going to be like?

Right now it’s basically a little bit of a plaza deck and a water retention area out there. I wouldn’t say it gives the performing arts center any kind of a welcome feeling, especially for the neighbors and pedestrians. We’ve redesigned that whole plaza. It will incorporate art pieces on the main portion of the plaza and water features coming down all the way to the straight level, creating almost a neighborhood plaza, something that you would see in Europe where they take intersections and literally make those into public spaces. This whole new landscape design out in front is to encourage the local community to be a part of the Kravis Center. 

How do you go about creating a parking structure that fits in with the rest of the neighborhood?

It always becomes a neighborhood issue when you put up a parking garage because no one wants a parking garage next to their residence. Nine times out of 10, what we try to do is make a parking garage look like anything other than a parking garage. You’re never really going to ever see any of the parking bays or even the parking ramps on this building because it’ll be covered in a perforated metal skin, which mimics the scale and rhythm of the existing glass curtain wall on the front of the Kravis Center. We wanted to make sure that the parking garage really had a residential or even a commercial office feel to it, as opposed to a parking garage feel to it. The top of the garage has a partial roof that wraps around the perimeter of the building, mainly facing towards the apartments that are just to the east. The other thing we’ve also done at the top of the parking structure is a little art piece up there. Rather than looking at striped parking spaces, we’ve designed the top of that garage to mimic piano keys. 

For more information on the Kravis Center’s expansion, visit kravis.org/kravis2020/.

Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561.832.7469; kravis.org

Renderings courtesy of LEO A DALY

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