Architecture: Vaults or Boxes?

Next: Adapting the Design

Concept drawing, July 1966 DeLeuw, Cather design, 1966 Weese box design, 1967 Bunshaft’s vault, 1967 Station model, 1967
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To make Washington’s rapid transit system architecturally significant, National Capital Transportation Agency officials hired Chicago architect Harry Weese. After touring subway systems throughout Europe and Japan, Weese proposed spacious, column-free stations beneath a vault. Civil engineers pointed out that for cut-and-cover stations, a box-shaped station would provide more space for less cost, and Weese agreed, proposing boxy stations for downtown Washington. But the Commission of Fine Arts, which had to approve the design, insisted on vaults, and Weese complied. When he presented a scale model of a coffered-vault station, everyone was delighted.