WMATA Wins 2014 AIA Twenty-five Year Award

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Sandra Sitar

Cool. Thanks to @jim_malone for tweeting us about the 2014 Twenty-five Year Award:

“The Washington, D.C., Metro rail transit system was selected for the 2014 AIA Twenty-five Year Award. Designed by Harry Weese with the matching ideals of “Great Society” liberalism and Mid-Century Modernism, the Washington Metro gives monumental civic space to the humble task of public transit, gravitas fit for the nation’s capital.

Recognizing architectural design of enduring significance, the Twenty-five Year Award is conferred on a building project that has stood the test of time by embodying architectural excellence for 25 to 35 years. Projects must demonstrate excellence in function, in the distinguished execution of its original program, and in the creative aspects of its statement by today’s standards. The award will be presented this June at the AIA National Convention in Chicago, the home of Metro’s architect, Harry Weese, who died in 1998.”

10 Comment

  • What a fantastic award. Let’s honor WMATA by riding the Metro pantless this Sunday.

  • When did “Mid-Century Modern” come to mean “Soviet-Gulag Drab?”

  • Yeah, great design for those who actually use the system. Dark platforms, acoustics that lead to inaudible announcements, stations with absolutely no character. I’m not sure if the brilliant two-track system, which leads to major delays every time there’s a train breakdown or sick passenger, was factored into the award. I wonder how many of the AIA decision-makers actually ride Metro.

    “A 600-foot platform (nearly long enough to accommodate the Washington Monument laying on its side) sits at the bottom of a colossal circular tunnel topped by a vaulted roof, left unblemished from light fixtures by prevalent up-lighting.” Too bad for the users who would actually like to be able to see while waiting, sometimes for very long times, on the platforms.

    I do agree with the statement that Metro provides a “totally singular mass transit experience, incomparable to any other American system.” I have not ridden any other American systems as royally effed-up as Metro.

    • leftcoastsouthpaw

      Really? I definitely have not found that to be the case. Granted, in the 14 years I’ve lived in DC, there have only been 2.5 years where I had to use the metro for daily commuting. For the most part(95%+), I find the trains run on time and are in good working order. Sure. I would like them to run more often during non-peak times, but that’s an issue you will find on any other American system.

      • Have you tried using it over the last few years on a daily basis, especially the Red Line? Or how about on weekends when they’re doing track work and trains are few, far between, and packed?

        • I have and it’s not actually that bad, though I wouldn’t say it’s amazing either. I’d say leftcoastsouthpaw is closer to correct than you are.

      • austindc

        I agree, I think metro is pretty awesome, and I have ridden a lot of transit in a lot of cities around the world. It’s not the best, but it is far from the worst. The nice thing about this is that it’s an award about the endurance of the architectural design, so all of our whining about having to wait for a train is kind of irrelevant. And from that standpoint, I have to agree, Metro is looking pretty good after 25 years. Props to this Weese fellow.

    • I’m curious. What other subway/metro-type systems are you familiar with? I’m used to the NYC subway system, and have a passing familiarity with using the trains in Boston, Philly, and even Baltimore — and most of the stations that I’m familiar with would hardly win awards for outstanding design. While your criticisms are accurate, and I’m sure reflect your experiences, given what other US subway sysems were like when the DC Metro was designed, I would say that the design of the stations was — and is — grand, and stands the test of time. Acoustics and announcements were not commonplace in subway systems in the ’60s and ’70s, and, the “brilliant two track system” likely represents a compromise between costs and massive disruption while the stations and tunnels were being built, and utility. As someone who remembers what DC was like before the Metro was built, I hope it’s flaws can continue to be improved, but I think it’s one of the greatest things to happen to this city — within my lifetime, at least.

      While I have been seriously inconvenienced by the Red line construction projects, I’m also glad that overdue maintenance is being done. Longer cars on all of the trains, and longer hours would enhance the quality of my life considerably. But, hey, it sure beats waiting for a DC Transit bus in the wee hours.

  • Aaaaaaand in typical WMATA incompetent style:


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