A Familiar Trip and A Subtle Trip - CODAworx

A Familiar Trip and A Subtle Trip

Client: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Location: Alexandria, VA, United States

Completion date: 2023

Project Team


Rob Ley

Rob Ley Studio


Brian McCutcheon

Ignition Arts

Program Manager

Laurent Odde

WMATA Art in Transit Program

Senior Program Manager – Potomac Yard Metrorail Station

Fred Robertson


Project Coordinator

Anne Delaney

WMATA Art in Transit Program


These two artworks created for the Potomac Yard Metrorail station’s entrance pavilions capture the biophilic requirement of the project by echoing the local wildflowers and iconic flora of the Potomac River region. The profile and colors of the North Pavilion composition echo the pink, star-like shape of the cherry blossoms, while at the South Pavilion, the artwork’s elements of varied shades of blue reflect the Virginia bluebells flowers.

These artworks, which are based on a halftone pattern methodology, use elements that vary in size and spacing to generate a gradient effect. They are designed to engage the viewers who encounter the artworks each day from varying angles and perspectives by prompting moments of optical illusions similar to that of halftone images that lead the human eye to interpret patterned areas as if they were smooth tones.

Through these distinct forms and colors, each pavilion possesses a unique character that helps clearly differentiate the station entrances turning art into way-finding that enhances the customers’ experience.


Successfully integrating these site-specific public artworks within the architecture was an essential goal of the project. The artist and fabricator worked hand in hand with the architects and engineers during the design development phases, fabrication, and installation of the artworks.

As a result, the artworks are both physically perfectly integrated to the station station’s architecture and successfully connected to the physical experience of the spaces by responding to the motion and movements of the customers as well as that of the natural light coming into the building through the clerestory windows. Exploiting the openness of the pavilions’ architecture and transparency of the glazing, Rob Ley created artworks that can be read from both inside and outside of the station.

Additionally, Rob Ley’s “A Familiar Trip” (North Pavilion) and “A Subtle Trip” (South Pavilion) follow principles of biophilic design and address our inherent need to experience and connect with nature by providing visual access to and experience of local and regional natural features. As such, they are the first in a US Transit system to introduce biophilic elements and provide credit towards LEED Transit accreditation of a Metrorail station.


An Artist Selection Panel led by the Art in Transit program included representatives from the City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts, the City of Alexandria Commission for the Arts, LEED consultants from ARUP as well as from the WMATA’s Art in Transit program and Potomac Yard station construction project team.

The panel ensured that the selected artworks presented strong artistic and aesthetic qualities that properly fit within the architectural parameters of the building, provided a stimulating and attractive environment for the people who experiencing the artworks on a daily basis, and imparted a sense of pride within the local community.

Additionally, as the project was included in the LEED certification of the station, the artist and WMATA work with the LEED consultant to ensure a successful completion of the credit through the integration of biophilic design elements of natural light, movement, and reference to the local flora in the artworks.

This project was funded by the City of Alexandria as part of a capital project at the Potomac Yard Metrorail station.

Additional Information

Conceptually, Rob Ley’s artworks are motivated by the understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each individual element of the artworks is unique in size and bend angle, but together the pieces work in concert to form an aggregate composition. When seen from afar, the artworks can be understood as large arrangements, yet when viewed up close they are understood as an assembly of many small parts. The network effect in the compositions both reveals and supports the complex patterns and order of the natural environment. By visually connecting to and referencing the scenic preserved wetlands bordering the east side of the station, the artworks help create a quality experience for travelers. The Potomac Yard Station is one of the first rail stations in North America anticipated to receive Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Opened in May 2023, the Potomac Yard station is the 98th station and the second infill station in WMATA's history. The station offers access to Bike & Ride facilities and walking paths to the station from the surrounding area.