The National Capital Planning Commission, which was heavily involved in refining Metro’s original designs and plans, said the agency does not foresee a “review role” for itself in the new station design.
“Those look like primarily interior station changes,” Julia Koster, a planning commission spokeswoman, said after reviewing a Metro-supplied video of the makeover. “Typically, our review is for location and external changes.”
Stessel said the agency’s in-house architects came up with the new station look for the Bethesda prototype. He also said Metro plans to “engage and consult” with the fine arts and capital planning commissions.
Metro officials said they chose Bethesda as the pilot for the makeover because the station’s three escalators are scheduled to be replaced early next year. Another reason is because the current design of the station limits the ability to add lighting.
Metro’s video of the station makeover shows more lighting in stations and around signs on platforms. Sarles said that stations will be “much brighter,” allowing riders to “make it through stations more easily.”
“It will just feel good,” he said.
Concrete walls around stairwells would be replaced with glass and steel. New lighting would be installed along escalators. Station managers would have smaller kiosks with digital panels to give train information. Anti-slip flooring would be put in near escalators.
“Customers may notice that Metro brown has been replaced by stainless steel and light gray to create a lighter, more modern appearance,” Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas says in the video.
The tall, brown posts that show station names on platforms would be replaced with more directional signs for passengers that would be higher up, “making it easier to see and reducing clutter,” according to the video. Some of the posts would also have digital signs providing train arrival information.
But Bruegmann said the new directional signs looked like something “in a shopping center” and not distinguished enough for the nation’s subway system.
“You can’t be too careful,” he said, in making changes to the look of Metro. “We’re talking about [changes] to the greatest public space in the nation’s capital.”
Zachary M. Schrag, author of “The Great Society Subway” — a history of Metro — agreed.
“Weese was very consistent on the palette of materials he was going to use,” he said. “That meant granite, concrete and bronze with some glass, so putting in a lot of stainless steel strikes me as a pretty significant departure from Metro’s design.
“I would describe it as a sacrifice of an important work of 20th-century architecture.”
Many of Metro’s rail stations have dim and, in some cases, dark parts. Riders have raised concerns that lighting has been a low priority while the agency has pushed aggressively to do major track rebuilding in the past few years.
This year, Metro rolled out a long-range plan to deal with the projected increase in riders on the already-crowded system. The plan, dubbed “Momentum,” calls for building a tunnel downtown and another under the Potomac River, projects that would require billions of dollars.