I was reading a column by John Kelly entitled "Could D.C.’s Metro stations be prettier? Or do they reflect the city perfectly?" in the Washington Post. The article questioned how well Metro Stations resembled Washington the way that other cities (mostly the spectacular international ones) do. The person he used in the article was a Mechanical Engineer named Dale to make the case that the stations needed improving.
This article largely reflects the dilemma of design. I don't know the ins and outs of the Metro quite yet, but I do know that the system well designed architecturally. The system is functional, but creates an unconfined and comfortable space. I can't think of many stations, and I have been to quite a few, that aren't cluttered by columns or strike fear in the claustrophobic. Luckily Kelly agrees with me on this point.
One can suggest many reasons for the same design of every station, but the most important is that it makes the system clearer. I bet there are two sets of escalators at each end of the station, and if there is another line running I bet I can visually find it through a perpendicular vault and the audio cues of the trains on that line. Who knows how many signs and tunnels I would have to go through to do the same in London, or Berlin.
I think dolling up the stations would simply be that. A ficticious application to make the people of the time feel like their station is cool. This would largely follow the culture of now, being grossly outdated within 10 years, if not sooner. Then we would be hearing about how out dated the station is and how it needs to be improved. The Metro stations are classic, not to decorated, and functional. 30 years from now the people will still feel the stations are boring, but that sure beats the ugly that dated architecture cliche quickly becomes.
On a closing note I would just like to say, good design is always taken for granted. The Metro stations have so many brilliant details that people likely don't notice. My favorites are air conditioning that comes from the tall brown information signs and under the concrete benches- or that the majority of the light comes from reflections off the vaults- or that the audio system was originally hidden below the side walls to hide all the clutter of most train systems. I think we should celebrate and embrace maintaining the original design. It has proven successful since the 60s and people should recognize it for that.