Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Headquarters
STUDIOS Architecture, 2022
What’s most important to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority—a.k.a. Metro—is people and their wellbeing. It was the core value they wanted to design their new headquarters around at the Jackson Graham Building in L’Enfant Plaza.
Ashton created a vibrant branded environment, whose high-visibility features help visitors navigate the space, build pride among employees, and cast WMATA as a modern, welcoming entity. The mix of graphics, colors, and textures increases accessibility and interaction throughout the building while leaving a lasting impact on the viewer.
Murals & Supergraphics
The striking lobby installation, made in collaboration with Giles Miller, depicts custom-made silhouettes of WMATA users created from thousands of hexagonal tiles, whose shape matches the iconic floor tiles used throughout the D.C. system. The tiles’ various colors, finishes, and angle placements also give the mural movement and represent the diversity of the riders WMATA serves each day.
Throughout the space, everyday data is elevated to the level of art. Stripes of bus routes make for interesting distraction graphics on glass walls in the elevator lobbies.
A single, bus-schedule supergraphic unifies the building’s seven-story stairwell. The stacking pattern, created from WMATA’s ubiquitous timetables, does more than carry the eye up the open space—it integrates timestamps on each floor that correspond to that floor’s level.
WMATA’s extensive archive also served as a rich design resource. The diverse range of materials was combed through and categorized to create a unique wall graphic on every floor. The “capital idea” mural, for instance, is composed of hundreds of photo slides taken during the original construction of multiple D.C. Metro stations.
Additional guiding principles are highlighted across the other floors. Each wall comprises archival photos, hand drawings, and illustrations, ranging from the initial ideas for WMATA’s stations to more current-day events.
The murals’ collages cover a range of topics, from equity to accessibility, in a visual way. This layered effect allows for new moments of discovery every time they’re walked past.
On level 3, a timeline featuring WMATA’s history from inception to the present spans a 100-foot-long corridor. The dynamic composition unites text, imagery, quotes, data, and archival objects into an engaging story that emphasizes WMATA’s growth and impact in the region. The timeline’s thematic organization and neighborhood focus apply an approachable structure to the otherwise seamless installation.
Vivian Marie Doering