Dear Mr. Sarles:
In its meeting of 16 May, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for alterations to the First Street entrance to the Union Station Metro station, submitted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). While commending WMATA's initiative to improve pedestrian access to the station from First Street, the Commission took no action on the proposal and requested revisions in the design for a new concept submission.
In their discussion, the Commission members expressed support for the planning to improve the circulation at this congested entrance, but they questioned the scale and character of the proposed exterior elements within the wider monumental context. They commented that the Metro entrance, as a small but important transportation portal, should establish a civic presence recognizable from a distance within the immediate context of First Street. They recommended responding more directly to adjacent elements—such as the massive rusticated stone wall, the overhead bridge structure, and the pattern of trabeated openings in the dressed granite facade further south—and perhaps lengthening the canopy and associated ramp and stairs in order to create a more gracious and prominent entrance. They noted the precedent of simpler forms in the traditional design of canopies associated with rail infrastructure; they recommended that the form of the canopy be more integrated in its formal logic with the new ramp and stairs. They also questioned whether the canopy as designed would provide adequate protection from inclement weather due to its height above the entrance and its tapering shape, and they noted the potential technical issues of water collecting within the concave form, or possibly allowing water to flow onto the stone wall and fall on pedestrians at the point of entry.
Again, the Commission members enthusiastically support the effort to improve this entrance to one of the national capital city's most important public structures, Union Station, and the Metro system itself; they look forward to the review of a new design for the exterior elements of the proposal. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
General Manager and Chief Executive Officer
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
600 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
cc: Ivo Karadimov, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Beverly Swaim-Staley, Union Station Redevelopment Corporation
William Gallagher, KGP Design Studio