Mediating Conflict in Situ

Saving Space, Making Place 

Corcoran School of the Arts and Design





Naomi Crellin, Founder and CSO of Storycraft Lab

Nigel Briggs, Exhibition Designer at Smithsonian National Museum of American History

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

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 currently stands in the middle of staggering gentrification in Washington, DC, and is the focus of an ongoing battle between developers, community activists, and city officials. 


Saving Space, Making Place transforms the site into a three month long interactive exhibition, designed as a conduit for resolution, inspiring a path forward through the power of play, story, and collective action.

An interactive park space above ground and Community Think Tank below encourage multiple levels of experience, physically and mentally.

The exhibition's spatial and environmental graphic design leverage the unique qualities of the space, encouraging close observation of McMillan's design and inspiring a new appreciation for its history


For example, Manhole Messages cover ten of the 2100 manholes peppering the park, guiding visitors to and through the experience with the voice and wisdom of urban planners.

Visitors can access an augmented reality app, The McMillan Time Machine throughout the experience to explore McMillan's history, alongside its present, and crowd-sourced designs for its future.  

Story Pods showcase first-person stories of McMillan Park. Developed in partnership with DC organization, Story District, and illustrated by local artists, these animated accounts are seeded throughout the park to accentuate the human side of the debate and build a sense of community.

Site Explorers give visitors a chance to gather together to delve deeper into each proposal for the park's future.

Update: McMillan Park is still sitting behind its fence, steeped in controversy and debate, in the middle of some of the most rapid growth and development in the country. 

Copyright 2020 by Rachel Matthews