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Metro plans a unique canopy for Dupont's north entrance

Metro plans on covering Dupont Circle's large, circular Q Street station entrance with a tweaked version of its iconic canopy.

Rendering of the proposed Q Street escalator canopy. Image from NCPC.

The elliptical shelter will be the first unique design since Metro began regularly adding canopies to protect escalators. While most outdoor Metro escalators go underground in tight rectangular shafts, at Q Street the escalators pass through a huge drum-shaped pit.

Because the pit is such an unusual shape, Metro needs a different canopy design.

The unique design passed reviews by the National Capital Planning Commission and Commission of Fine Arts this spring, with only minor alterations.

If all continues to go as planned, WMATA expects to complete construction in 2018.

History of the canopy program

The engineers of the original Metro system didn't think it would be cost-effective to cover all the system's many escalators. But by 1999 increasing escalator breakdowns and a change to DC's building code required WMATA to build canopies over its entrances.

After a bad reaction to early canopies at Petworth and Glenmont, Metro held a design competition. They ultimately chose a simple glass design by Lourie & Chenoweth Architects because it evokes stations' coffered ceilings and can be easily adapted to multiple sites.

After finalizing the designs, Metro installed the first of its standardized canopies in 2003 at Virginia Square, Brookland, L'Enfant Plaza, and Medical Center.

The standard canopy design

Imagine a doughnut that's standing upright, 600 feet in diameter, buried in the ground. The architects took a rectangular patch of that doughnut's surface as the overall shape for the new canopy.

This meant a double-curved surface could be made out of flat pieces of glass and simple pieces of stainless steel.

If this idea sounds familiar, it was used to build the Sydney Opera House and the glass wall at Arena Stage.

Other glass roofs curved in two directions require expensive triangular construction, fragile cold-bent glass, or glass that pops out slightly. The latter is how architects designed the ceiling at the Kogod Courtyard.

The glass roof of the Smithsonian's Kogod Courtyard. Image by Foster + Partners / Buro Happold.

Because of the doughnut-like "toric" shape, the Metro canopy's glass only needs to be cut into trapezoids, and the steel girders need curves in only one direction. Most of the units repeat, simplifying manufacturing. Depending on how wide or long the escalator shaft is, Metro can stretch the geometry to fit. The architects got a lot of visual play for Metro's dollar.

Schematic drawing of the standard Metro escalator canopy. Image from WMATA.

The Dupont canopy

For the Q Street canopy, Metro brought back Lourie & Chenoweth. Their design relies on a geometric trick that keeps the structure light and window system simple, while allowing for a large enough canopy to cover the escalator pit.

To adapt the system to the circular opening, Lourie & Chenoweth simply cut an elliptical section from the torus, instead of the regular rectangular one. This means the entire rim will require curved cuts. The steel girder will take the form of a bent circle, directly above the lip of the drum.

The design is meant to keep the plantings down below alive, in addition to all the usual requirements of canopies.

Growing up, I thought the Q Street entrance was an incredibly cool way to see the sky. But as an adult, my enthusiasm is tempered by all the umbrellas I've lost to the winds this pit creates. Hopefully, this design will retain some of what makes the entrance unique, while more effectively keeping riders and escalators out of the rain.

What do you think, is it a great twist on an existing idea, or should they have gone for something totally new?

Neil Flanagan grew up in Ward 3 before graduating from the Yale School of Architecture. He is pursuing an architecture license. He really likes walking around and looking at stuff.  


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2018? How long does it take to build a single canopy?

by Benjamin Kabak on Jun 10, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

Nice, I'm a fan of the updated design. Too bad Columbia Heights got the old, ugly canopies.

by BTA on Jun 10, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

@Benjamin Kabak
Well, Metro was originally shooting for 2022, but Santiago Calatrava was unavailable.


by Matt' Johnson on Jun 10, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

That's my entrance and I honestly don't want it to have a canopy.

by TimK65 on Jun 10, 2014 11:42 am • linkreport

Judging from the architect's rendering, this canopy won't keep rain off the escalator, so, what's the point?

by Capt. Hilts on Jun 10, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

I still wish we could build a round rooftop cafe over the Metro entrance (as said in 2011:

But as long as we're stuck with a canopy, it would be great if they could include some creative lighting in the design. What will it look like at night?

by M.V. Jantzen on Jun 10, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

yep, lighting. Shade in the summer. Better rain protection.

I'd be curious to know who much of the escalator problems are from being exposed to the outside vs. WMATA stupidity.

by charlie on Jun 10, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

I know I'm in the minority, but I love the old canopy design, especially the one at Columbia Heights:,-77.033183,3a,75y,152.14h,77.79t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sMgxBL9eIvfwBVcwCPGWyyQ!2e0!6m1!1e1
Of course, the real trick that makes the Columbia Heights entrance so great is that the whole neighborhood converges on that point, so the walls of the canopy become the backdrop of a vibrant social scene.

by Tom Veil on Jun 10, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

When with the Capitol South station get a canopy? The rain causes the escalators to break down.

by Davin Peterson on Jun 10, 2014 12:34 pm • linkreport

The Kogod Courtyard is lovely inside and out. Not sure about this frisbee.

by asffa on Jun 10, 2014 12:35 pm • linkreport

this is their most passive aggressive response to the phantom planter yet.

by Atlas on Jun 10, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

Maybe I'm overly cynical, but to describe the top of the escalators at Columbia Heights as a vibrant social scene is putting an undeserved positive spin on it.

My interpretation of the canopy is that it creates restricted views, induces claustrophobia, and encourages loitering. The 2.0 canopy at stations like Eastern Market go much further to create an inviting and visually stimulating public space in my opinion.

The canopies are a welcome addition in some locations. But there's a few stops, like Dupont, that would seem to be better off "al fresco". I'm not convinced that a properly designed and maintained escalator requires protection from the weather.

by dcmike on Jun 10, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

Well, if the Guerrilla Gardener isn't going to plant something other than the pachysandra [I can't spell it] that is there, now, then so be it! I want COLOR!

by Capt. Hilts on Jun 10, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

i was once a fan of Metro's canopies but Metro seems unable to clean them, so they send of being yet another symbol of Metro's sloppy maintenance. As long time Metro rider, I notice that stations are not nearly of the same cleanliness level as 15-20 years ago.

by Alf on Jun 10, 2014 12:57 pm • linkreport

I am a general fan of the plazas/ streetscaping around Columbia Heights but I find the idea that the existing canopies create a community, frankly, laughable.

by BTA on Jun 10, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

BTA Agreed. Do you not think communities gather around Metro escalators for funsies?

by asffa on Jun 10, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

I don't understand the purpose of the current canopies or this new one, when they won't keep out the rain. If rain only fell straight down, I suppose it would, but if there's any wind, it's no better than without a canopy.

by Ray on Jun 10, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

If rain only fell straight down, I suppose it would, but if there's any wind, it's no better than without a canopy.

Having stood under one of these canopies during a downpour, I can say that it is indeed much better than no canopy at all.

by Alex B. on Jun 10, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

A shallow domed version might have been cool but keeping it in the same volabulary seems to make sense.

by Thayer-D on Jun 10, 2014 1:32 pm • linkreport

China could build a whole new city with an entire metro system by 2018!

by Bill on Jun 10, 2014 1:34 pm • linkreport

Throw over a tent like at Denver Airport

by asffa on Jun 10, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

In the CFA presentation, the architects described the elliptical shape as a way of fitting the standard arch over a circular hole, covering the end of the escalators, and not hiding the PNC Bank facade.

There's definitely something special about this entrance as it is now. Maybe it's how you move through the round space or how it frames the sky. Not sure, but I will be kind of sad to see it go.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 10, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

WMATA is planning to completely overhaul the East entrance to the Tenleytown Station including building a canopy that covers both the escalator and the elevator (located maybe 20 feet away).

by ARM on Jun 10, 2014 2:10 pm • linkreport

My entrance as well. As much as I enjoy the views without it, I won't miss the sense of dread as you ride up and see rain pounding the upper third of the escalator, knowing you're about to get soaked and can't do anything about it. Also to a lesser extent, there're a few times during the year when the late afternoon sun seems to beat straight down the shaft, making you feel like an ant under a microscope.

I welcome the canopy, assuming it gets finished sometime this decade. I do wonder if and how long they'd have to close the north entrance, though. Using the south end every day would bring me dangerously close to Krispy Kreme on a regular basis.

by sproc on Jun 10, 2014 2:19 pm • linkreport

The Columbia Heights and Petworh canopies actually do keep out rain and snow, and I like the added touch of stained glass in their designs. The newer design, though beautiful and evocative, does not extend far enough to provide effective cover for people or escalators. It doesn't look like that will be solved with the Dupont Circle adaptation.
Oh, and the ugliest cover is in Ballston, but it works great for its purpose.

by Paul W on Jun 10, 2014 2:28 pm • linkreport

Ahhh...Krispy Kremes....

by Capt. Hilts on Jun 10, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

I like it. It'll really make it more of an entrance than a literal hole in the ground. That said, I echo the other statements... 2018?!?!

by Adam L on Jun 10, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

I use this entrance probably twice a week, and, definitely, a canopy will be much better when it rains than the current open pit. It's actually a decent uncovered distance.

Now, why can't Metro cover the full length of the above ground platforms? Can't those of us who use the eastern leg of the Red Line get at least some protection from the elements for all 8 cars of an 8-car train? It can't be fundamental to Weese's design; if so, all of the underground stations would have a giant open shaft over the back quarter of each platform!

by EMD on Jun 10, 2014 3:27 pm • linkreport

I love Dupont but I will appreciate the canopy there for reasons already outlined.

by BTA on Jun 10, 2014 3:39 pm • linkreport

"Now, why can't Metro cover the full length of the above ground platforms? Can't those of us who use the eastern leg of the Red Line get at least some protection from the elements for all 8 cars of an 8-car train?'

Yeah, i have wondered the same thing for years, and why the new Silver Line stations are still only half-covered.

by dcseain on Jun 10, 2014 3:55 pm • linkreport

China could build a whole new city with an entire metro system by 2018

It might not have any residents, 15 people might die building it, it might collapse under a stiff breeze, and half the cost will line the pockets of government officials but yes, they could.

by Richard on Jun 10, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

Cost effectiveness had noting to do with decision to not cover the open station entrances with canopies. The Fine Arts Commission nixed the idea.

It too a lot of convincing to get The Fine Arts Commission to finely allow WMATA to cover the open entrances.

The escalator vender modified the design of the escalators to better withstand the elements where they were exposed. We all know how that worked out in several locations.

Oh and for the record the escalators in the Q Street entrance to the Dupont Circle station are the original escalators that were there when the station opened on 01 17 1977. They have been upgraded and modified several times over the years but the basic guts are original.

by Sand Box John on Jun 11, 2014 12:42 am • linkreport

For those dicussing the timetable, it appears there has been almost zero money in WMATA's budget to do this work until this year, and even then, possibly not enough to actually install one canopy, depending on how you interpret the NCPC report. Kinda tough to do the work without the money in hand.

by Sherman on Jun 11, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

@Capt Hilts -I do not believe the Guerrilla gardener planted the pachysandra. WMATA said they would plant something after they pulled up the morning glories her had planted. He had also planted daffodil bulbs. Did you see daffodils blooming there this spring? if not, that means WMATA dug up the bulbs. How stupid if that happened.

by Tina on Jun 11, 2014 11:29 pm • linkreport

Form over function plain and simple; the canopy should be curved downward with edges that allow the water to flow away from entrance instead of sticking straight up.

"Now, why can't Metro cover the full length of the above ground platforms? Can't those of us who use the eastern leg of the Red Line get at least some protection from the elements for all 8 cars of an 8-car train? It can't be fundamental to Weese's design; if so, all of the underground stations would have a giant open shaft over the back quarter of each platform!"

Fully agree and whats worse is why can they have longer or more than one covering at certain stations National Airport & King Street. If it can be done at those it can be done at all stations. The coverings could also be wider to cover the tracks as well like what is done in many newer systems.

by kk on Jun 13, 2014 2:42 pm • linkreport

They really could just copy the covering over Canary Wharf tube station and just make it a bit larger so that it goes a bit beyond the entrance.

by kk on Jun 13, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

What a dad


by J Lo on Oct 22, 2016 1:30 am • linkreport

To those that want this and that "Why can't Metro cover entire platforms, etc." -- got an unlimited budget? And -- some of us like partially open to the sky platforms.

by Pete D on Dec 5, 2016 8:22 am • linkreport

A pretty view of the sky isn't worth the higher maintenance bills that escalators open to the elements have.

by Capt. Hilts on Dec 5, 2016 10:45 am • linkreport

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