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LED Light Rainstorm to Illuminate NoMA's M Street Underpass

NoMA's M Street underpass will be transformed from a dreary, gloomy underpass into a twinkling, visually engaging LED light installation, called Rain. With construction expected to begin this fall, the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) announced that the Dutch firm NIO and Rhode Island-based Thurlow Small Architecture are the winners of a design competition set to beautify four underpasses in the neighborhood. The installation planned for the M Street underpass will be composed of LED tubes that respond to cars' movements, creating the illusion of a rainstorm. According to Washington City Paper, the BID is spending $2 million to create the four public art underpass installations. A community meeting will be held on April 27 to gain public input on the project.
On the NIO website, the architects describe four patterns the LED lights will run on. Throughout the day, the lights will only be at 50 percent power. When there is movement in the underpass, the lights will temporarily increase to 100 percent. At night when there is little to no movement, the lights will have a slow pulse with a linear wave rolling from the middle of the tunnel towards both ends every 20 seconds. During the daytime, the movement will increase to every 10 seconds. When a car rides through the tunnel, NIO described the light pattern as a wave "like the slip stream of a boat." If more than one car enters the tunnel, the lights will create a twinkling effect. Finally, if cars are in the underpass, but are not moving, the lights will be centered to the vaults of rods, meant to emphasize the cramped space in the tunnel.

Previous designs for the M Street underpass were to construct a giant optical illusion, sign-language classroom, or silent movie theater, as reported by Washington City Paper. Nearly 250 teams from 14 countries entered the competition. Other finalists are still being considered to overhaul the underpasses at L Street, K Street and Florida Avenue.

· NoMa Underpass to Become Never-Ending Rainstorm [Washington City Paper]
· Autumn [NIO]