First Look at the Proposed K Street NE Underpass Digital Art Installation

The K Street Underpass between 1st and 2nd Streets, NE.

Member of the ANC6C Environment, Parks and Events Committee with Brian Smith of NoMa and Jeff Grantz, Creative Technologies at Design Communications, Ltd.

Artist My Ly at her studio: My Ly Design

First Look at the Proposed K Street NE Underpass Digital Art Installation

by Larry Janezich

Last Tuesday night the ANC6C Environment, Parks and Events Committee saw for the first time the digital art installation proposed for the K Street underpass located between 1st and 2nd Streets, NE.  The committee is chaired by resident member Joe McCann, 6C01

The proposal was created by public space artist My Ly, of My Ly Design, a multidisciplinary design practice based in Washington.  The firm specializes in public and private sector projects and has created several installations in the city. 

The technology for the concept was executed by Jeff Grantz, director of Creative Technologies at Design Communications, Ltd, in Boston.  DCL is a leading signage fabricator of architectural specialties – custom signage, integrated digital media, wayfinding and themed entertainment. 

The process leading to ANC6C’s consideration of the proposal was outlined by Brian Smith – NoMa Bid’s Director of Planning & Economic Development – NoMa BID is sponsoring the project.    

  • The concept presented to the EPE Committee in April 2022.
  • Artist RFQ* was issued in September – and included the ANC Committees’ topeic suggestions: transportation, bicycles, and neighborhood history.  The RFQ produced nine applications, which were narrowed to five from which two finalists were selected. 
  • (*A Request for Quotation is sent when you know exactly what product/service you want, and you only need to know the price.)
  • Curator: Andrea Limauro
  • In December of 2022, artists My Ly and Nekisha Durrett selected for the first two exhibits. Nekisha Burrett’s proposal will be presented at a later meeting of the Committee. 

My Ly explained her concept, saying that the underpass is a hub of circulating patterns, with a train overhead and pedestrians, cyclists, and cars below.  As such, it represents a multimodal community and the goal was to establish art which speaks to that.  The question was how to translate the movement into art.  Ly created an animated layering of colors and shapes depicting vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian and train movement as a matrix – projected art that captures the movement through the site.  The installation will employ 12 laser projectors and plays out in a loop-able state which runs over several minutes and repeats.  The light and shapes appear to be moving with the traffic to avoid being distracting.  The apparent motion is timed to travel in 30 to 35 seconds what a car would take 14 seconds in real time.  This is to discourage drivers from racing with the light.   

Here’s a rendering which allows one to see the overlay in the context of the texture of the wall.  Light passes in low gradient wash the lights don’t move but are revealed.   Relative to nature everything moves at the same pace as the movement around it, so to fit into its surroundings.

Time Line:  After consideration and a letter of support from ANC6C, DDOT will have to sign off on the project from a safety perspective.  That will permit the design team to begin installation which will take an estimated several weeks.   

The Committee voted unanimously to recommend the full ANC support the proposal and the full ANC agreed to the recommendation on Wednesday, February 8, by a vote of 6 -0-1.  Commissioner Patricia Eguino voted to abstain, after expressing concerns about displacement of the homeless who might seek shelter under the underpass.    

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One response to “First Look at the Proposed K Street NE Underpass Digital Art Installation

  1. derekfarwagi

    Interesting but I would find this very distracting. Especially at night.