Dear Mr. Wiedefeld:
In its meeting of 21 June, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for the installation of digital advertising and information screens in Metrorail stations. The Commission approved most components of the concept design and provided the following comments.
The Commission members expressed general support for the proposal to install additional digital signage infrastructure within the Metro system. However, they cautioned that increasing the number, type, and size of digital advertisements could further erode the clarity and integrity of the system’s iconic architecture and distract from passenger wayfinding within these significant public spaces; they urged installing, in strategic areas, only the minimum number of screens necessary. They also found that the proposal was difficult to evaluate because it did not include the principles and parameters—such as the screens’ distance from wayfinding and other informational signs, their brightness relative to ambient light conditions, pedestrian densities within stations, and advertisers’ criteria—that are needed to guide the installation of screens throughout the system. They also recommended conceptualizing the placement and content of the screens as though they were part of a public art program.
The Commission members offered several recommendations regarding the specific plans for the six stations presented. Citing the widespread precedent for such installations in other cities, they accepted the proposal for screens to be installed on the granite walls of escalator passages, and they encouraged minimizing the appearance of any conduits. For the screens shown at the passageway portal in the Gallery Place station, they found that the existing wayfinding signage above the portal would be too dimly lit in comparison to the proposed flanking screens, and they therefore recommended rebalancing the lighting in this location to adequately illuminate the existing signs. For the screens proposed for the curving passageway wall in this station, they commented that this configuration would be acceptable if the existing regulatory sign were moved to another location. Finally, they did not approve the oversized screen array proposed for the sunlit concourse at the NoMa station—which may better be used for public art—or for an unclearly documented location in the Navy Yard station; they requested further information on this proposal if the idea is to be pursued.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing additional information for the large screen proposal, as well as the comprehensive principles and parameters intended to guide the placement of digital screens throughout this preeminent transit system of the national capital area.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Paul J. Wiedefeld
General Manager and Chief Executive Officer
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
600 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001