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Mediating Conflict in Situ

Place 

Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

 

RESPONSIBILITY

Design Research, Stakeholder Interviews, Narrative Development, Exhibition Identity, Graphic Design, 3D Design and Rendering, Activation Development, Construction Detailing, Scale Modeling

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

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CONTEXT

The Corcoran's Exhibition Design thesis begins with a site. Research informs the narrative experience, graphic and spatial design, as shown through a dissertation, defense, guidance document, and physical model. 

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.

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EXPERIENCE

Spatial and environmental graphic design leverage the unique qualities of the space, encouraging observation of McMillan's design and inspiring an appreciation for its history. For example, twelve of the 2100 manholes are activated as wayfinding, guiding visitors to and through the site with the wisdom of urban planners.

 

The repetitive, rhythmic nature of the site and circular form of the manholes are carried through the experience design to signify timelessness, unity, and community. 

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 can be found throughout, accentuating the human side of the debate.

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OUTCOME

As the culmination of my graduate school education, this project put my technical skills into practice, while also empowering me to dive into research and narrative. In the process I learned how to balance the push and pull of design and content in favor of a cohesive experience.

 

In addition to the final defense, frequent presentations to exhibit and experiential industry professionals throughout the development gave me a foundation for communicating design 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.