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John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library

Pygmalion Karatzas
Pygmalion Karatzas

The selection of I.M. Pei to design the Kennedy Library catapulted him to international celebrity, attracting some of the most important commissions of the era.

The building responds to two major challenges: 1) How to combine presidential archives, research and education facilities, administration, museum, national memorial, and ceremonial center in a single building?; and, 2) more difficult, how to remember the young fallen president in a way that was both contemporary and timeless? Recalling JFK’s love of the sea in its dramatic site overlooking Dorchester Bay, the Kennedy Library accommodates its diverse functions in three iconic components: a circular drum housing exhibition space and two theaters, a 10-story triangular library/office tower, and a 110-foot-high space-framed glass pavilion filled with nothing but a giant American flag and the thoughts and hopes of visitors to the memorial.

Site plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

The Kennedy Library took fourteen years to complete during which time the circumstances driving the project forward, and the world at large, changed very significantly.

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