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In compelling ways, architecture and design can come together to create spaces for open conversation and community enhancement. The Walkway was a temporary public art exhibit that sought to inspire conversation about how strangers interact with each other in public places, what experiences they have had and how these experiences made them feel. The goal was to inspire understanding and respect and as part of a greater initiative to make the streets of D.C. safe for residents and visitors. Commissioned by The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the exhibit was part of the District’s Vision Zero Traffic Safety initiative.
The MMD Branding team explored the complex nature of behaviors exhibited in public places among strangers. The intent was to use design to inspire conversation and also to educate in order to affect behavior that improves the human condition by inspiring understanding and respect.
The Walkway was a temporary installation on a Washington, DC street corner. It was erected beginning in January 2016, and stood for three months. The shape was derived from a Venturi Tunnel, with a slight drop in the ceiling and reduced width in the middle. The purpose of this form is to create a sense of becoming smaller as one is being watched. The form was covered by a combination of transparent and opal polycarbonate, with a length of 32 feet and a width of 11 ft at its widest, narrowing in the middle and a height of 9 ft at the tallest, dropping to 7ft high in the middle, it was also meant to feel more constricted as one passes through.
As visitors entered The Walkway they were exposed to bold graphics and sounds; the graphics are faces that expressed different actions and reactions. The sounds were city sounds and conversations and stories that represent exchanges. Anonymous stories were portrayed as quotes, which were more benign and friendly at the opening of the exhibit, but became increasingly uncomfortable as one passed through the middle. In addition to visiting the exhibit, participants were encouraged to share their own stories through a website and to take photos and share them on an Instagram account set up for the exhibit.