“The NoMa Parks Foundation has selected the design concept for L Street, NE underpass” Check Out a Rendering

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Rendering courtesy NoMa BID

From a press release:

“The NoMa Parks Foundation has selected the design concept for L Street, NE, the second underpass to be transformed with light and art in the NoMa neighborhood. Future Cities Lab will create an undulating light structure, ‘Lightweave,’ that will appear to float from the ceiling of the underpass. The installation will “peek out” onto L Street outside the underpass and beckon visitors to explore and linger in the beautifully transformed space. M.C. Dean will serve as contractor, and construction is expected to begin in late 2015.

A community meeting to introduce the design team and contractor, and to garner additional feedback on the concept and design, will be held July 13 (details below).

Charles (Sandy) Wilkes, Chairman of the NoMa Parks Foundation, noted, “The jury made its decision to select ‘Lightweave’ based on excellence and innovation of its design but also its remarkable complementarity with the L Street Plaza, planned for the west side of the underpass. It’s a great choice.”

The announcement was made at a well-attended community meeting about NoMa parks last week. The Foundation started the underpass project in April 2014, with an international design competition that received 248 responses. The goal of the project is to fill NoMa’s four rail underpasses, at L, M, K Streets and Florida Ave, NE, with light and art, making them enjoyable east-west connections for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Future Cities Lab, based in San Francisco, is a prominent design studio, workshop, and architectural think tank that explores the intersection of art and design with advanced fabrication techniques, robotics, responsive building systems and public space. They recently opened the interactive installations ‘Murmur Wall’ and ‘Lightswarm’ at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. ‘Lightweave’ will translate ambient sounds from passing trains and other sounds of the neighborhood into dynamic auroras of patterned light. ‘Lightweave’ will animate the underpass with variable intensities of illumination while creating a meditative and interactive experience. Similar to dropping a single pebble into an undisturbed pond, waves of light will slowly oscillate through the space. Multiple sounds will create dynamic visual overlaps. The quality and placement of lighting elements will dramatically improve the experience of the underpass for pedestrians and bicyclists, but will not interfere with or distract vehicular traffic.

M.C. Dean, which will serve as construction manager on both the L Street and M Street underpass projects, is the nation’s premier electrical design-build and systems integration firm for complex, mission-critical installations.

Community members are invited to meet the designers and construction team, learn more about the conceptual design and share their thoughts at a community meeting on Monday, July 13, from 6:30 to 8 PM in the Lobby Project, 1200 First Street, NE. This event is free and open to the public; RSVP here.

A prototype of the M Street installation, “Rain,” by NIO architects and Thurlow Small Architecture, will be installed this summer for community input. Stay tuned for updates on all the NoMa Parks Foundation efforts at www.NoMaParks.org.

About the Underpass Competition

The NoMa Parks Foundation launched an international design competition in April 2014 to find artists to reimagine the four underpasses at Florida Avenue, L, M and K Streets, NE, and fill them with light and art. A distinguished jury narrowed 248 submissions from around the world into 10 finalist teams.  A community outreach process gathered important feedback, including more than 370 survey responses from community meetings and an online survey. The M Street Underpass Art Park will be the first project to start construction, followed by the L Street underpass.

The NoMa Underpass Art Parks are funded by a grant from the District of Columbia government to create parks and improve public spaces in NoMa. The NoMa Parks Foundation has been working in conjunction with the D.C. Department of General Services, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, the District Department of the Environment, the District Department of Transportation, the Commission on Arts and Humanities, Amtrak, and WMATA on the NoMa Underpass Art Parks initiative. Construction on the M Street underpass is expected to start in fall 2015. Please look for future announcements in connection with the K Street and Florida Avenue underpasses, which were also included in the 2014 underpass design competition.”

31 Comment

  • justinbc

    ….it looks just like it already looks, except with coat hangers. I hope they didn’t deliberate too long over this.

  • JayPea

    I don’t understand how this transforms the space. At all. Adding more lights won’t do much to mask the smell of urine that characterize these underpasses.

  • But it UNDULATES.

  • This is 100% public parks money… not anything that NoMa BID fundraised or a developer donated. Plus they aren’t even planning to make the underpass any brighter than it is now… the RFP just calls for it not to be decreased (they plan to take out the existing lights).

    What an absolute waste of money. They should simply (1) make it brighter; (2) clean it regularly; (3) maybe paint fun patterns on the pavement; (4) add benches. There’s nothing complicated about this stuff, and they’ve budgeted $500,000 ($2M total!) for the four underpasses.

  • Looks like barbed wire. What a disaster. I have zero confidence in the panel or anyone who chose these people to be on the panel

  • This is terrible, and disappointing, along with the “rain” one. This one is even worse. They can’t paint the walls/pavement? It’s literally the same with different lighting. How will this make this a space people want to congregate? They will just pass through and think “this is weird”. Or they will have an epileptic seizure. Either or.

  • I would actually find this creepy to walk through at night… not safer and brighter.

  • Emmaleigh504

    So how is the public supposed to use the space, dump dead bodies?

  • When, oh when, is DC or somebody that’s elected to the DC high poobah swarmpit gonna recognize the value of public art placed in the obvious key places, like this one, where community and art could, maybe, just maybe, calm a few social storms?! How great it would be to actually see various forms of art and outdoor sculptures in a space like this and not some conservative PC high architecture from the usual suspects…Hmm

  • “explore and linger”? in a dank, marginally well-light, urine soaked, still very sketchy underpass? All for how much??

    How about a twice weekly hosing with disinfectant and super bright lighting and cops on a walk beat.

  • I think many people are taking a short-sighted view here, and these innovative designs will deter some the things that make the underpasses unattractive right now. Well-lit areas are unattractive to criminals, so why not have an interesting design to go with it, rather than just sodium lights.

  • Oh! Nice! MC Dean won another city contract. He must have needed another yacht at his ’40 million dollar party pad’ (as dubbed by the WSJ). So glad we could help him!!

  • west_egg

    Wow, tough crowd, even by PoPville standards. Personally I think it’s pretty cool and has the potential to create an engaging and unique space of the sort we could use more of in this city. And no, I’m not affiliated with this project in any way. I don’t even live in the area.

  • I look forward to seeing this. I don’t think the commenters here read the entire press release, especially this part:

    ‘Lightweave’ will translate ambient sounds from passing trains and other sounds of the neighborhood into dynamic auroras of patterned light. ‘Lightweave’ will animate the underpass with variable intensities of illumination while creating a meditative and interactive experience. Similar to dropping a single pebble into an undisturbed pond, waves of light will slowly oscillate through the space. Multiple sounds will create dynamic visual overlaps”.

    I think it will be much more interesting than the photo suggests. And no, I’m not affiliated with this project either.

    • Good point but I think the problem is the ground space isn’t activated. It’s literally just a slab of concrete. I don’t know who would hang out under a bridge, but seems there’s opportunity to attract chess players or other ways of activating the ground if so much thought is going into the lighting.

    • justinbc

      If you think anyone will be meditating in there you’ve got a real misunderstanding of what the current situation is.

  • Tough crowd. It sure beats the typical kids slapping up a painted mural that reads “Welcome to our ghetto neighborhood.”

  • I echo the “tough crowd” sentiment. It’s certainly an improvement, and I think the whole ambient sound thing sounds pretty cool. At the end of the day it’s an underpass…not a park, I’m not sure what if anything could be done to make people want to congregate under a bridge…?

    • Thunderstorms will do that. A few weeks ago there were crowds congregating at all the underpasses on four mile run trail in Arlington, without any art or anything.

      • Exactly. Hot days, rainy days, etc… it’s rare to have spaces like this that are protected from weather and especially at M Street people already congregate there to wait for a shuttle bus, or someone to get our of the Metro. I’ve even seen people eating dinner while sitting dangerously on the guard rails separating the sidewalk from the cars!

        Each sidewalk is over 20 feet wide. The actual walking path only takes up half of this space. The rest of it can either be activated with benches, chess sets, etc. or continue to be covered in Metro trucks (on M Street) or a homeless encampment (L Street). This projects shows a real lack of vision by NoMa BID. It’s also important to remember that this is 100% public funds. The BID didn’t fundraise any of this from adjacent developers or others like Georgetown did with their gondola study.

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