April 21, 2013

Regarding the April 12 front-page article “Metro stations to get redesign to be brighter, more modern”:

Upon moving to Washington from New York in 1987 and first riding the Metro, I remember having an extremely mixed and complex reaction to it. As someone with a lifelong interest in architecture and the quality of public spaces, I was thrilled to leave behind the anarchistic squalor of New York’s subway. But as impressed as I was with the modernity and high aesthetic aspirations of Metro, I also found the environment within to be profoundly unsettling. Although the design itself had undeniable integrity, and was impressively coherent and refined, to me there was an unmistakable Cold War ethos behind its darkened vaults that both alarmed and depressed me. It felt strangely vacant and anonymous in a way that spoke more of the hard edge of automated missile systems than a place where an enlivened citizenry could negotiate the hopefully happier rituals of traveling within a great city.

One would think that given my reaction, all these years later I’d welcome any attempt on the part of Metro to lighten the atmosphere and “change the furniture,” so to speak. But the truth is that such a formidable design should not be tampered with lightly, and as capable as the in-house architects of Metro may be, the proposed changes look merely functional, at best. I believe anything less than the most sophisticated and inspired of design interventions will only serve to trivialize what, in effect, has become another type of Washington Monument in this city, and should be strenuously avoided.

Robert N. Weinstein, Chevy Chase