Since mid-2015, there have been plans to install interactive light installations in two underpasses in Washington, D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood. Finally, it looks like progress will come at last with construction expected to start later this month. The designs for the underpasses at L and M streets NE were chosen in 2014 after an international design competition resulted in 248 entries from 14 countries.
The winning entries were “Rain” from Dutch firm NIO and Rhode Island-based Thurlow Small Architecture and “Lightweave” from San Francisco-based design studio Future Cities Lab.
At the L Street NE underpass, “Lightweave” will feature LED lights that will appear to float from the ceiling and “translate ambient sounds” from the neighborhood. The intensity of the LED lights will be responsive to any nearby sounds that exceed 50 decibels, whether that be passing trains, cars, or even pedestrians. The installation consists of six lattice modules held up by columns which are spaced 16-feet apart.
For “Rain,” this installation will be located in the M Street NE underpass, transforming a dreary, gloomy space into a twinkling, visually engaging area with LED tubes that respond to cars’ movements, creating the illusion of a rainstorm.
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.
According to the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID), starting January 11, construction on “Rain” will close the sidewalk on the south side of M Street NE, while the sidewalk on the north side of M Street NE will only be partially blocked. The north side of M Street NE will be fully fenced once the south side is complete.
A pedestrian and bicyclist passageway will remain open. Within two to three weeks of construction starting, the Capital Bikeshare station will be temporarily relocated to the southwest corner of 3rd and M streets NE.
When it comes to “Lightweave,” the sidewalks on the north and south side of L Street NE will be partially blocked with a pedestrian and bicyclist passageway remained open, starting January 11.
Construction isn’t expected to begin on “Lightweave” until January 23. At this point, the north side of L Street NE will be fully fenced off. Once the north side is complete, then the south side of the underpass will be fully fenced off.
For both projects, the anticipated delivery date is April 2017.