M Street NE Underpass

In April 2015, the NoMa Parks Foundation announced the selection of Thurlow Small and NIO architecten to create the design for the M Street NE underpass: Rain. The two firms had provided the design preferred by the judges and the community, had worked together over the previous two decades on several infrastructure and public realm projects, and had also completed more than 10 underpass projects. The construction partner was M.C. Dean.

Rain, which opened on October 25, 2018, features cascading LED lights housed in roughly 2,000 hanging polycarbonate tubes that bathe the space in a soft blue- white light and pulse in response to vehicular traffic in the underpass, giving the effect of a gentle rain shower. “Our tunnel proposal for NoMa does what all good urban parks do,” wrote the design team when the project was announced by NPF. “It offers a moment of openness, a space to breathe, and a place where thoughts can drift away.” M Street’s Rain installation glows with ever-changing, soft white light, making an enormously dramatic improvement in how pedestrians and cyclists experience the space. In 2019, Rain received the American Institute of Architects San Francisco Chapter Special Commendation for Infrastructure Enhancement.