With New Exhibition (and New Entrance), Dupont Underground Hopes to Advance Design Conversation

  • April 19th 2021

by Nena Perry-Brown

The winning design, at Dupont Underground entrance. Click to enlarge.

Having secured a lease extension, Dupont Underground (DU) is now seeking to advance the design conversation for its subterranean disused-streetcar-tunnel-turned-arts-space.

Dupont Underground staff launched the Re-Think Dupont Circle design competition last August, casting a wide net to solicit designs reimagining how the federally-owned Circle could better serve and represent its community, and how the 19th Street stair entrance to the Underground could be a "landmark" of sorts.

DU founder Julian Hunt says the non-profit went international in hopes of "expanding the public imagination." "The local debate gets too hung up on details and difficulties, it needs to be broken out of its own limitations," he told UrbanTurf.

The competition ended up garnering almost 100 responses submitted by architects from 16 countries. The winning design, by Gensler, ended up being selected unanimously by a panel of nine judges.

The winning design, at Dupont Circle. Click to enlarge.

Dubbed "Illume", the design bends light into minimalistic shapes that accentuate the infrastructure below. While the portion of the competition that sought a new design for the Circle is unlikely to ever be implemented (Dupont Circle is federal property in the National Park Service portfolio), part of the criteria for the DU entrance was that the design had to be feasible within a certain budget.

Hunt also described the contest and the subsequent exhibit as an implicit commentary on DC statehood, because if DC were a state and had voting representatives in Congress, it could secure federal funding to defray the costs of improving the old tunnel and would also have more control over the design of Dupont Circle.

The DU team hopes to implement the winning design at the 19th Street entrance. Between securing the necessary approvals from entities like the Historic Preservation Review Board, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission, in addition to doing more community outreach, work likely wouldn't begin before late 2022.

An exhibit of some of the finalist designs is currently running through late May, and a booklet of the exhibit is also available for pre-sale orders.

See other articles related to: design contests, dupont circle, dupont underground, gensler

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/with-new-exhibition-and-new-entrance-dupont-underground-hopes-to-advance-de/18149.

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