On Friday, May 4, I will moderate a Congressional Briefing on US Infrastructure with historians Janet Bednarek and Peter Norton.
Lance Hosey has published an essay questioning whether the label “Brutalist” describes Harry Weese’s design for the Washington Metro. The essay usefully complicates the term, but I think it underplays Weese’s commitment to the materials and forms he used.
Ten years ago, when Metro was still working well enough for people to wish for more, the more frequent question I got was about the lack of a Metro station in Georgetown. Now that the challenge is to keep the current system functioning, the question is why Metro has only two sets of tracks on each route, so that shutting one down for repairs causes slow service.
In my research, I found two documents that explained the decision particularly well.
I get all gushy about Metro architecture.
I had a chance to discuss Metro’s architecture on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, on the occasion of the system’s winning the AIA’s 25 Year Award.
Dana Hedgpeth, “Wary eyes on Dulles rail project’s bottom line,” Washington Post, 1 October 2011.
The original Metro system was estimated to cost $2.5 billion in 1969, but it came in at $3.8 billion — not counting inflation, according to Zachary M. Schrag, associate professor of history at George Mason University and author of “The Great Society Subway,” a history of Metro.
“It would be somewhat surprising for a major rail transit project to be completed on budget,” Schrag said. “Most major projects of any kind go over budget, that includes road projects, weapons systems, space programs, stadiums.”
Typically, overruns hit because it is hard to predict the cost of such expenses as materials and the relocation of utilities in a construction area, Schrag said. “It is kind of a vicious spiral where people low-ball the estimates to get their project approved,” he said.
Thanks to John Kelly for a nice mention of The Great Society Subway: “Could D.C.’s Metro stations be prettier? Or do they reflect the city perfectly?,” Washington Post, 19 September 2011.
I am quoted in Dana Hedgpeth, Metro gets to work on ‘transition’ map Washington Post, 5 September 2011.
I am cited in Mollie Reilley, “Washington’s Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales—Some of Which Are True,” Washingtonian, 29 August 2011.
Am quoted in Nick Desantis, “The Social Subway,” Washington City Paper, 12 August 2011.