Underpass Art Parks

The Park Idea

This project, outlined in the NoMa Public Realm Design Plan, seeks to improve the condition of NoMa’s underpasses through art installations that enliven and beautify these public spaces. The underpass locations are:

  • M Street NE between First Street and Delaware Avenue
  • L Street NE between First and 2nd streets
  • K Street NE between First and 2nd streets
  • Florida Avenue NE between 2nd and 3rd streets

Click the links above to find information about the art for each underpass.

The Parks Details

These four underpasses are critical connections between First Street NE — NoMa’s “Main Street” — and 2nd Street NE for the more than 44,000 residents and 54,000 workers in and around NoMa. They provide access to area attractions including Gallaudet University, Red Bear Brewing, the burgeoning Union Market area, REI, NPR, Wunder Garten, and the bustling H Street NE corridor, as well as new residential buildings on both sides of the tracks.

Through an international design competition, the NoMa Parks Foundation sought to identify design solutions that would transform these underpasses into positive experiences for all who pass through them and to vastly improve the pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular user experience.

The underpasses present special challenges given existing conditions and the variety of stakeholder interests. Underpass stakeholders include Amtrak, WMATA, DDOT, and other District agencies, as well as NoMa community members. The NoMa Parks Foundation has worked closely with each of these stakeholders throughout this process to ensure that all of their engineering, mobility, and safety concerns are addressed.

In April 2014, the NoMa Parks Foundation launched the design competition. In all, 248 teams from 14 countries entered the competition by providing their qualifications to produce and implement underpass improvements: 49 teams were deemed qualified by the NoMa Underpass Jury and received a Request for Proposals for specific design concepts; 10 finalists received honoraria enabling them to further develop their design concepts for presentation to the community.

On October 16, 2014, all of the final design concepts were presented to the community for input on aesthetic concepts and functionality. Survey forms were available at the October 16, 2014, community meeting for the public to provide comments and ask questions about the submissions. Several of the finalists attended the meeting and responded to questions. Additionally, the NoMa Parks Foundation established a special website that presented the finalists to the community and collected input on which design schemes were preferred. Together, more than 370 public responses were received and considered.

Project Status

Thurlow Small + NIO architecten’s Rain installation was selected for the M Street NE underpass. Future Cities Lab’s installation Lightweave was selected for the L Street NE underpass (press release). Contracts required the designers to integrate landscape design concepts expressed in the Corridors and Pocket Parks Project and to further engage with the community as they proceeded through design development.

Construction of Rain in the M Street underpass installation was completed in October 2018 (press release). Construction of Lightweave in the L Street underpass installation was completed in April 2019 (press release). More information can be found on each project’s page.

Designers for the Florida Avenue and K Street underpasses have not been selected. We expect to proceed with design and selection for K Street in 2021 and are waiting for DDOT to finalize its Florida Avenue study prior to designing the installation for that underpass.