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Mediating Conflict in Situ

What if disputed land could be activated to build empathy, alleviate hostility, and inspire compromise?

PLACE

COURSE

Corcoran School of the Arts

and Design, Capstone

ROLE

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Exhibition Research + Development

Exhibition Design

CHALLENGE

McMillan Park was once used as a park space, filled with a diverse community. Below ground, its catacomb-like cells filtered water from the Potomac. Decommissioned and fenced off since WWII, the 26-acre site stands in the middle of staggering gentrification in NW Washington, DC, and is the focus of an ongoing battle between developers, community activists, and city officials. 

MISSION

Place builds on placemaking principles to transform the site into a three month long interactive exhibition, designed as a conduit for resolution, inspiring a path forward for the community through the power of play, story, and collective action.

EXPERIENCE

 

Place is designed for multiple levels of experience, physically and mentally. An interactive park space above ground allows for play, while a Community Think Tank below delves deeper into renovation proposals. An augmented reality app gives visitors insight into the past, present and future of the site, while chutes and ladders invite them to weave in and out of the experience levels. First-person stories sourced from community members can be found throughout the exhibition, accentuating the human side of the debate.

DESIGN

Spatial and environmental graphic design leverage the unique qualities of the space, encouraging observation of the park and inspiring an appreciation for its history. The repetitive, rhythmic nature of the site and circular form of the manholes are used as a visual device, while 12 of the 2100 manholes at the park are activated as wayfinding, guiding visitors to and through the space with the wisdom of urban planners. 

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LEARNINGS

As the culmination of my exhibition design degree, this project put my spatial and graphic skills into practice, while empowering me to dive into audience research and narrative development. In the process I learned how to balance the push and pull of strategy, design, and content. In addition to my defense, frequent presentations to exhibition design professionals throughout the process gave me a foundation for communicating ideas, digesting and implementing feedback.

In case you're curious to know how McMillan Park is doing these days, it's still sitting behind its fence, steeped in controversy and debate in the middle of the most rapid growth and development in the country.