Preservationist: Don’t change Metro’s look


View of proposed changes to Metro’s Bethesda station with more glass, light and less concrete. Source: Metro, Washington Post

An assistant professor of preservation planning at the University of Mary Washington makes a case that Metro shouldn’t change its distinctive look of browns and oranges that make it well, the Washington area’s subway system.

Andrea Smith of Fredericksburg wrote her opinion in the Washington Post in response to a recent story about how Metro is pushing to change the interior of its stations in an attempt to give the system’s 86 stations a more modern look.

Metro said earlier this month that it plans to add stainless steel, bright lights and clear glass to replace the soft lighting and dark colors that were put in when the system was built in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Bethesda station would be the prototype for the redesigned look. It would cost about $10 million to roll out the features there by mid-2015.

Some historic preservationists and designers have cringed at the mere thought that Metro would change its look.

In her piece, Smith cautioned that Metro, unlike New York’s subway or London’s Underground, is “characterized by something the others lack: a distinctive, unified design.” She says things that may now seem in need of a makeover often come back into fashion.

Take skinny jeans, she points out, noting how they are “back in vogue.”

Metro is unique, she says, with its high ceilings, browns and oranges and plenty of concrete. Getting rid of that look or even just making tweaks would be “an irretrievable loss,” she wrote.

Sure, better lighting and safety improvements should be made, Smith wrote, but she ends by saying “don’t take out what makes Metro Metro.”

Changing the look at stations has spurred plenty of reactions from riders.

Some riders weighed in recently to Dr. Gridlock on the future changes at Metro stations. While some want to see better looking stations, others care more about the service they’re getting and not the cosmetics.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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Lori Aratani | April 23, 2013