Architecture buffs have always had a soft spot for the Washington Metro system, which opened in 1976. Many of its stations feature Brutalist interiors and clever works of art that speak to the institutions and government buildings sitting on the surface. Here’s your checklist for some of the capital’s most stylish stations.
This central transit hub is a perfect example of architect Harry Weese’s Brutalist vision of clean lines and expansive underground spaces. Its vaulted concrete ceilings include the iconic waffle-like coffers found in 32 stations throughout the system. Look for G. Byron Peck’s mural, Scenes of Washington, and five Tiffany-like stained-glass sconces.
Serving as a gateway to historic Chinatown, this station features a 30-foot-long sculpture by Foon Sham entitled “The Glory of Chinese Descendants” (2000). Shaped like a giant fan and lit with neon, the piece evokes traditional objects such as chopsticks, rice paper and lanterns.
Archives–Navy Memorial–Penn Quarter
This station features a subtly monumental artwork, a gift from the Metropolitano de Lisboa. Jorge Martin’s 67-foot-long, green-marble “Ocean Piece” (1995) resembles a large wave and features poems by Walt Whitman and Fernando Pessoa.
Thanks to its proximity to the NASA Administrative Offices and the National Air and Space Museum, the station’s public art goes all-in on the space motif: Noted dog photographer William Wegman has dressed his iconic Weimaraners in space suits for two immense porcelain enamel photomurals.
One of the busiest stations outside downtown, Columbia Heights is filled with colorful art. Akili Ron Anderson’s stained-glass piece, Sankofa I and II (2002) depicts a bird from Ghana’s Akan culture; its head turned over its shoulder represents seeking guidance from the past. And at the bottom of the escalators you’ll find “Woven Identities” (1999), a mural by architect Megan Walsh and youth from the Casa Del Pueblo Community Center that shows the community’s diversity.