Prather’s Alley Activation


Washington, DC



AIA DC 2023 Design Awards Citation for Equitable Communities

AN Best of Products Award 2023: Outdoor Furnishings


Project Gallery

This project to reimagine Prather’s Alley, located in Mount Vernon Triangle, reclaims historically underutilized alley infrastructure to inspire culture, commerce, and connectivity.

The project was multidisciplinary and multipronged. After a series of community surveys and design workshops, the proposed improvements included three interventions: public art, a mobile market, and traffic calming.

The team then worked to pair portions of the project scope with potential grant opportunities. Design development, fabrication, and installation was implemented as funding was secured for each component.

The public art component is supported by the DC Office of Planning Streets for People Grant, a program aimed at reviving the city’s urban commons following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project highlights the alley as a place of great historical significance. The alley and its adjoining buildings were once central to life for Mount Vernon Triangle’s African-American community.

To celebrate the living history of Prather’s Alley, visual installations have been added to reintegrate and reactivate the space as an important civic asset.

The vinyl mural installation adorning the walls of 455 Eye Apartments & Lyric 440K Apartments pays homage to the former Northern Liberty Market, a cultural anchor of its time.

Built in 1874, the market was one block north of the alley. In 1893, a hall was constructed above the market, structurally supported by the installation of large iron trusses. Throughout the 20th century, this hall was the center of various recreational and cultural activities, including bowling and movie screenings. (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Today, images of the old, trussed hall serve as the inspiration for the vinyl graphics that line both sides of the alley.

A perspective of the trussed arches aligns with key vantage points in the alley, projecting a view of the space that once was.

The murals are host to a rotating photography installation, whose inaugural curation highlights the intersection of history and daily life in Mount Vernon Triangle.

By documenting the people, places, and moments that collectively define the neighborhood, the project honors the community’s storied history while celebrating its continued evolution.

The mural is further deployed throughout the neighborhood on the CID’s wayfinding graphics.

A family of mobile market stalls brings activity and commerce to the alley.

Capitalizing on a popular weekly farmer’s market nearby, three of the stall types work together to support food preparation and instruction.

The Wash stall has a kitchen sink with integrated filtration pump and water heater.

The Cook stall has a power hookup for hot plate and a flip-up mirror for cooking demonstrations.

The Sell stall has a pull-out storage bench and display screen for the sale of locally-made goods.

Designed to be stored in a shipping container in the alley, the stalls unfold to add work surfaces and shading devices. All stalls are powder-coated steel frame, birch plywood, and stainless steel countertop.

The final intervention, which was made possible with the support of the federal Transportation Alternatives Program, was to convert the alley to one-way traffic and delineate a pedestrian corridor. Prather’s Alley was already a popular cut through for pedestrians, bikes, and cars. The new plan allows people, cars, and delivery trucks to safely occupy the alley together.

The inclusion of diverse voices has been vital to reinvigorating Prather’s Alley. Engagement to understand the needs and desires of the Mount Vernon Triangle community with respect to the alley’s reimagination started in 2018. Subsequently, a series of events – survey, focus group design workshop, and site visits – engaged the community in the project as it developed.

At the focus group, community members used paper models of the alley to diagram potential activation form and program.

This feedback was coalesced into three schemes, which were posted for a community vote in the alley.

The winner - market stalls!