The DC Metro System for Architect Magazine


In May, I spent two days riding the Metro for Architect Magazine. I rode on trains during the early morning rush, pressed up against my fellow commuters as we collectively surrendered our personal space to the gods of convenience. Hours later, I stood completely alone on a dim, subterranean platform, watching for that pale ochre light of an oncoming train to seep into the station, signaling its impending arrival.

What I didn't truly understand about the Metro was the secret language of its design. The coffered ceilings are the system's most recognizable feature but throughout the Metro, a broad, flexible but surprisingly consistent design template exists- from the spacing of the floor tiles to the typography of the signs. All of these details are in service of the essential act of moving people quickly and efficiently (at least most of the time) from one place to another while maintaining that familiarity of space. 

As Zach Mortice writes for The American Institute of Architects:

Across 86 stations—underground, at-grade, and elevated—spread over five lines covering 106 miles, the design identity of each station shines through. If a commute begins at a ground-level suburban fringe station next to a parking lot and ends at a hub of crisscrossing train tracks deep below downtown D.C., the common design elements and shared materials make each space navigable and understandable.
It’s an intensely formalist experience as mass transit goes; colossal concrete vaults, granite, and bronze are combined in an unmistakably monumental mid-century modernist manner.

My gallery of images can be seen here.

If you have any interest in the metro, I also highly recommend this piece by Lawrence Blemiller which helped me appreciate the thinking that went into the building of the system.

Sandy by Night

Mantoloking, NJ

As I've mentioned before, I used to spend a lot of my summers down the Jersey shore and have been back a few times since Hurricane Sandy and seen how the small beach community where my parents own a house has fared. By now, most of the damaged houses have been demolished and what's left are huge piles of debris that are slowly being hauled away. A few houses that are structurally unsound still stand, and they remain somewhat of a ghostly presence. During a summer night, their darkness stands out against the lights of the intact houses and cars passing by on the road. Here are a few images for walking the beach at night observing these lingering after effects of a storm that hits New Jersey almost exactly nine months ago.

NPR's First Broadcast from 1111 - Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon

I got a call last week from the folks at National Public Radio, asking if I would be interested in covering the very first broadcast from their new building at 1111 North Capitol Street. Even better, it would be spending the morning with the incredible producers of Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.

There were a few tense moments as the systems that they had been testing for months, even years finally began pushing live radio out on air, and there was an impromptu cheer as the first segment ended without a hitch.What makes Scott different from so much of what you hear on NPR is the way he opens himself up on air, expresses opinions and seemingly lets you have a look into what's in his heart each week. As much as I love NPR, this approach is atypical and requires enormous strength to remain vulnerable and open as your voice is broadcast to millions of people each week.

While I had a few brief minutes inside the studio and control room, it was such a privilege getting to see this first-hand. I was also witness to him clowning around with his two daughters on breaks, separated from them by the thick sound-proof glass, meaning the communicated through a series of silly gestures and funny faces which had everyone laughing.