Aura, Hooray, Pebble - CODAworx

Aura, Hooray, Pebble

Submitted by WMATA Art in Transit Program

Client: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Location: Washington, DC, United States

Completion date: 2022

Project Team

Artist Team

Hou de Sousa

Program Manager

Laurent Odde

WMATA Art in Transit Program

Project Coordinator

Anne Delaney

WMATA Art in Transit Program

Development Manager

Emily Ann Alexander

Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners

Founder/Chief Design Officer

Brian McCutcheon

Ignition Arts


The artist team Hou de Sousa (Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa) was selected by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Art in Transit program to develop site-specific artworks for its new headquarters located at 300 7th Street SW, Washington, DC. Hou de Sousa created three pieces: “Aura”, “Hooray”, and “Pebble”. “Aura” is a suspended three-dimensional artwork located in the lobby of the building. The sculpture “Hooray” and the sculptural bench “Pebble” are located outside of the building respectively along 7th Street SW and D Street SW. The artists stated that “When designing this triptych of public sculptures, it was easy to find inspiration within the immediate site as well as the broader context of Washington, DC. Pierre L’Enfant’s visionary urban plan for the district echoes throughout each sculpture, as do the architectural features of Harry Weese’s iconic DC metro stations, and Studios Architecture’s WMATA HQ design.” The HQ design and its surrounding landscape echo the geometric qualities of the nearby L’Enfant Plaza station, and Hou de Sousa have worked to maintain a dialogue with each of these elements by deploying a vocabulary of intersecting diagonal lines, rounded corners, and coffered spaces in their artworks.


WMATA’s Art in Transit program released a call to artists in 2020 seeking an artist or artists team to create unique, memorable, and engaging site-specific public artworks for its new headquarters located at 300 7th Street SW, Washington, DC. The building is a 11-story facility that consolidates several departments. It fosters a culture that is safety-focused, customer-centric, and technology-enabled, and creates a rich, immersive employee experience. The building is meant to feel welcoming, open and accessible, and the lobby is a light-filled, double-height space wrapping the southwest corner of the building.

The goals were for the artworks to be aesthetically attractive, capture WMATA’s mission, and reflect the artistic, cultural and/or historical interests of the surrounding communities. Consideration was given to creative uses of materials, massing, scale, form, texture, and detailing. Artworks were expected to be innovative as well as durable and impart a sense of pride within the local community as well as provide a stimulating and attractive environment for the people who experience the artworks daily.


An Artist Selection Panel led by the Art in Transit program was comprised of representatives from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden located a few blocks from the building, Studios Architecture responsible for the building design, and the Southwest Business Improvement District. Along with the requirement of capturing the essence of a transit agency, the panel ensured that the selected artworks presented strong artistic and aesthetic qualities that properly fit within the architectural parameters of the building and captured the uniqueness and vibrancy of the surrounding community.

Due to its location in the District, exterior design elements and the public artworks of WMATA’s headquarters fell under the purview of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. As such, the two proposed exterior artworks “Hooray” and “Pebble” were presented to the Commission which members strongly commanded the two sculptures’ bold designs and interactive character. Additionally, they noted that the sculptures, inspired by the geometries of the L’Enfant Plan, would be striking and beautiful in their own right, and emphasized the Commission’s support for these imaginative designs. Letter from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts:

Additional Information

“Aura” is composed of 34 coffered frames interwoven with blue, yellow, and green polyester cord in reference to DC’s metro lines. This site-specific piece was shaped by the curvaceous architectural context of the WMATA Headquarters, while simultaneously drawing inspiration from the geometries and spaces of DC's iconic vaulted stations. “Hooray” is composed of steel fins radially arranged to reflect DC’s urban grid. It is situated within a pocket of public space notched away from the perimeter of the HQ building. This idea of creating shared space to enhance the community became a key driver when designing the sculpture. The heart of the sculpture is carved away, creating an aperture and public throne that encourages direct engagement and use. The sculpture serves as a landmark observable from a great distance, while its richly textured fins, inspired by the color of cherry blossoms and DC metro lines, invite visual exploration from all angles. “Pebble” is a yellow, latticed sculptural bench made of hand-forged painted steel rods that encircles a pink blooming cherry tree. “Pebble” negotiates between the boundary of its site and the tree within it, ultimately providing a unique bench and a horizontal counterpoint to “Hooray's” vertical presence.