The lengthy bureaucratic process behind connecting downtown Washington, D.C., to Dulles International Airport in Virginia via rail is a few steps closer with the introduction of five new transit stations along the Silver Line, inaugurated in 2014. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and architects Dulles Transit Partners began designs for the Silver Line in 2003. In the years since, New York–based lighting design firm Domingo Gonzalez Associates (DGA) had to contend with changes in local, regional, and national leadership as well as a recession that left behind a general reticence to spend money on infrastructure.
The resulting stations succeed despite heavy value engineering, and they offer an angular, contemporary take on the original Harry Weese–designed WMATA stations, with subtle references integrated into modern, striking forms that mark transit nodes along the Dulles toll road. Although mandates for general lighting and egress were stringent, an equally strict allowable palette of luminaire types meant that DGA could easily adapt the lighting design to fit the evolving needs of the architecture over the course of the project’s development.
Linear lighting strategies reinforce wayfinding to and within the stations, with bare lamp 3500K T8 strips providing walking surface illumination as well as uplighting for the roof structure. Photocells control nighttime operation of exterior and passage lighting, and custom reflector luminaires with T8 lamps ensure safe light levels at the station platforms. In the stations that include skylights in their canopies, white compact fluorescent uplights contribute additional reflected luminance.
The design team focused its efforts on employing low-maintenance and durable design solutions wherever possible in an effort to prevent station service outages. Integrated 3500K T5 stairway handrail fixtures and custom 3500K T8 escalator balustrade lighting are part of that approach, and also contribute to meeting overall energy use targets while enhancing circulation legibility within the stations.
Despite the budgetary, logistical, and bureaucratic challenges of a multi-year, multi-stakeholder, multi-venue set of projects, DGA achieved a consistent lighting language across the five Virginia Silver Line stations. The use of linear fixtures underscores the angular forms and reinforces the architectural intent while delivering maximum light output and low expected upkeep. The new stations have already become glistening gems within an aging rail system, and hold promise for more sustainable transit infrastructure solutions in the region. —deane madsen
Project: Dulles Metro Rail/Silver Line, Northern Virginia • Client: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, D.C. • Architect: Dulles Transit Partners, Vienna, Va. • Lighting Designer: Domingo Gonzalez Associates, New York • Team Members: Domingo Gonzalez, AC Hickox, Patrick Merosier, Fredrick Amnas, Ana Pena • Photographer: Joseph Romeo Photography • Project Size: 23.5 miles • Project Cost: $2.1 billion • Lighting Cost: $1.975 million • Watts per Square Foot: 0.82 • Code Compliance: ASHRAE 90.1-2007 Transportation • Manufacturers: Apogee Translite, GE Lighting, Hubbell Lighting/Kim Lighting, Philips Lumec
• Great combination of lighting the architecture while balancing the functional requirements. • The lighting creates an inviting and calming sense even though the project is all about movement.