ML&F, Museum & Library Furniture LLC
Detail of the Gallery Bench, Slat

Ideas and Updates

A Critique of the New DC Metro Cars

I don't ride DC's Metro everyday, but I've always been alert to the system's design improvements. I just rode in one of the new cars, a 7000-series. As an architect and industrial designer, I immediately picked up on the significant departure from the old layout and finishes.

The New Metro Car

What in my experience provides me a point of reference to evaluate the new Metro car's design? Riding in the new car reminded me of living and working in Berlin in the 90's. I remember encountering the slick "good design" of the more modern trains that eventually struck me as boring and lifeless. What I really noticed and liked to ride were the boxy old East German S-Bahn cars with funky, authentic character. The seats were made of contoured oak slats, windows opened and the exteriors had this unforgettable color scheme and graphics; a distinctive mild red two-toning with a warm crème. Funny, the trains projected a subtle, no-nonsense aesthetic that really appealed to me. I remember that I would go out of my way to avoid new trains to ride the old S-Bahn lines.

I won't wax nostalgic about old DC Metro cars, nor do I recommend some fake retro reference. I actually love the new stainless steel exteriors (like Chicago!) with cool black graphics that supersede the old matte aluminum/chocolate motif. I'm not yet sure about the gloss grey interiors, blue vinyl seats and black floors. OK, the clear, attractive graphics and sounds definitely make a big difference. I predict that few will pause to reminisce about the old Metro look. Nevertheless, I wish for even the smallest touch of real solid wood, something to age gracefully.

Tom Shiner FAIA