Ahead of the Curve?

An artist's rendering of what an exhibition might look like in the Dupont Underground.
An artist's rendering of what an exhibition might look like in the Dupont Underground.


The lively arts in the nation’s capital are expected to go underground this year with the reopening of a long-dormant streetcar station beneath busy Dupont Circle.

Conceived to ease traffic congestion by routing Connecticut Avenue’s trollies under the circle, the 75,000-square foot station opened in 1949 and remained in use until D.C. streetcars stopped running in 1962. Then the concrete cavern went dark—except for short stints, first as a Cold War fallout shelter and then as an unsuccessful food court in the late ’90s.

Since 2010, the Dupont Underground has worked to develop the space as a “catalytic force for the city in the 21st century.” The nonprofit group envisions such attractions as art installations, dance parties, and fashion photography shoots.

Construction and demolition began in late March on a third of the station, including the east platform and a few tunnels; further development is planned in phases. “The underground part is, in many ways, the easy part,” says Braulio Agnese, managing director of the Dupont Underground. “What happens after that—the longterm, permanent build-out of the space,” especially the aboveground entrances, “will take longer to solve.”

If successful, more permanent establishments can start to move in—perhaps pop-up retail stores or monthly art exhibitions in the spirit of London’s Old Vic Tunnels or Düsseldorf’s Kunst im Tunnel. The east platform may open in July with an experimental interpretation of the 1920 Czech drama R.U.R., in which playwright Karel Čapek introduced the word robot.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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