L Street NE Underpass

Improving the L Street underpass was the second phase of NPF’s plan to transform the railway underpasses into sites of contemporary light-art installations. After the international design competition described above, San Francisco–based firm FUTUREFORMS (formerly known as Future Cities Lab) was named in June 2015 as the designer for the space. The firm is an award-winning interdisciplinary studio employing a team of artists, designers, architects, technologists, lighting designers, and more. Lead artist Jason Kelly Johnson said of Lightweave, “It was exciting working with the NoMa Parks Foundation and the community to bring this concept to reality. The idea was to create something interactive, playful, and unique to the site. We were inspired by the idea of translating sounds from the site into sculptural forms.” The installation work for Lightweave began in 2018, a few weeks after the unveiling of Rain.

The installation comprises six spiraling lattices of stainless steel and bent LED tubing suspended above the underpass sidewalks — three above each passageway, hung from freestanding armatures — that light up the space 24 hours a day, with LED colors changing and moving in response to sound waves from the sidewalk spaces and vibrations from trains passing overhead.

Lightweave was lit up and opened to the public on April 9, 2019. Sadly, as described above, it was severely damaged by a 2020 fire in the underpass. Because of the pandemic, the installation could not be repaired until 2022, when the Foundation paid for and supervised the restoration.