From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
One of DC’s best-known local initiatives, Dupont Underground, is drawing inspiration from abroad. Provisions Library, a project of George Mason University, sent four of its research fellows to Berlin from June 20 through July 20 to study the re-use of public spaces in the city and find connections between sites in the German capital and the reclaimed area under Dupont Circle. The fellows’ findings and ideas comprise the new exhibit “Parks & Passages: Inspiration from Berlin for Washington’s Dupont Underground,” on view from now until November 2 at the Goethe-Institut Washington.
Goethe-Institut hosted a panel discussion on September 13 to mark the exhibit’s opening. “Natural Adaptation, Urban Re-Use: Berlin and Washington DC” featured key players in recent urban re-use projects in DC, as well as Martin Pallgen, the project developer for the site of former Templeh of Airport in Berlin. Pallgen joined Steve Coleman, Director of Washington Parks and People; Lionel Lynch, principal at HR&A Advisors; and Patricia Zingsheim, Associate Director of the Revitalization and Design Division in the D.C. Office of Planning.
Moderated by Provisions Fellow Paul Farber, the panel touched on several universal issues in so-called “adaptive re-use” projects, as well as issues specific to DC and Berlin. The panelists’ varied experience with urban re-use projects informed their discussion. From Zingsheim’s involvement with the 11th Street Bridge plan to Lynch’s advisory role for New York’s The High Line Park and board membership with Dupont Underground, from Coleman’s reclamation of Meridian Hill/Malcolm X and Marvin Gaye Parks to Pallgen’s experience with Templeh of Airport.
The insightful conversation covered the challenges of attracting private investment, the importance of engaging local communities, and the necessity of acknowledging a site’s specific history to successfully adapt its space for a beneficial, purposeful use. The exhibit itself is best considered as the product of the exchange between the people and two countries rather than as a stand-alone aesthetic experience. Along with maps and and artistic representations of sites and their envisioned usages, the exhibit includes a comprehensive timeline of the abandoned streetcar tunnel space reclaimed by Dupont Underground.
The exchange of ideas between D.C. and Berlin and the experience of encountering specific spaces are both integral to the exhibit and its purpose. A range of programming, including events in Dupont Circle, will accompany the exhibit throughout September and October.
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