Underground Design
December 8, 2009 9:22 AM   Subscribe

If you're planning a visit to Stockholm, Munich, Bilbao, Shanghai, Dubai, Tokyo, Prague, Moscow, Toronto, and/or Barcelona, don't miss the chance to check out some of these amazing subway stations.
posted by brain_drain (57 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just have to say that Toronto's Museum Station renovation is totally half-assed, and the photographs make it look much nicer than it is.
posted by chunking express at 9:27 AM on December 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


The staro station in Prague is not exactly mind-blowing, but it's fun to pass the time by figuring out whether the hemispheres are raised or depressed
posted by Think_Long at 9:29 AM on December 8, 2009


Moscow in general had some fantastic subway stations, oddly ornate in a city of bleak modernism. Saint Petersburg wasn't bad, either, but that was more expected with the amount of amazing architecture that is everywhere.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:30 AM on December 8, 2009


I can vouch for Bilbao. "Pristine" would be an understatement.

Imagine what subways all over the world would look like if city officials understood the strong correlation between the character of its populace and the condition of its mass transit.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:31 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I second chunking express. It's amazing what a nice camera can do.

(including getting you threatened with violence, right, chunking?) ;)
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 9:31 AM on December 8, 2009


No, don't check out the mummies at Museum Station in Toronto. As the guys said above, it's pretty shoddy in real life, especially given the money spent. Two couples from Trading Spaces could have achieved the same quality for $1000 over a single weekend.

The TTC has fucked up so many basic things that need to be done for transit in this city. It would have been nice if they had spent some of that money on clear signage, accurate maps, or a sane rebuilding of the St. Clair streetcar route.

Wait -- they could actually have skipped the last project, thanks. There are so many underserved parts of the city that could have used some attention, but no, they had to screw up a serviceable route for 4 years (so far) in order to save 7 minutes between Yonge St. and Keele. Let me blow the world's tiniest noisemaker and wave the world's tiniest flag.
posted by maudlin at 9:34 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


They missed Paris's Arts et Metiers.
posted by vacapinta at 9:37 AM on December 8, 2009


The fact that some transit authorities put a lot of effort into designing the spaces that most of us rush through without really looking at, makes me really happy for some reason.

This guy has some cool photos of the Munich U-Bahn.
posted by carter at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2009


My apologies for a grouchy Torontonian derail. There is some really nice work in some of those stations.

Let me put in a good word for Montreal's Metro architecture as well. Some of my faves (which could show better with better photography):

Namur
De La Concorde
Outremont
And -- Acadie -- pure joy!
posted by maudlin at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having been to Barcelona in October, I can vouch for the metro awesomeness. But then I was most impressed by the- cheapness, timeliness, and notsmellingofurine-liness of it.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2009


Mayakovskaya Metro station in Moscow features the stunning mosaics of Alexander Deineka.
posted by fire&wings at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2009


>...while most of the subways stations in toronto are very traditional so ugly they beggar belief...

FTFY, Designboom.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:55 AM on December 8, 2009


Barcelona's makes we worry that Alex and his droogs are lurking behind a column to beat and rape me.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2009


Doesn't Philadelphia have some nice stations?
posted by mannequito at 10:06 AM on December 8, 2009


Doesn't Philadelphia have some nice stations?

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

That said, I am surprised that Mexico City didn't make this list. The stations where they accidentally unearthed Aztec relics and ruins during construction and then just built display cases around them where they lay are pretty remarkable.

I'm sure there are a lot of cities that could have made the list though. And for the record, I really expected the Toronto station highlighted to be Dupont.
posted by 256 at 10:10 AM on December 8, 2009


Doesn't Philadelphia have some nice stations?

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Seconded, unless you assume that dank poorly lit urine soaked tunnels are some kind of post-modern ironic art commentary by SEPTA. But I doubt it. The 30th St station is nice though.
posted by carter at 10:14 AM on December 8, 2009


London's Westminster station is a bit overwhelming, but it's interesting. I'm sure there are better photos but here are (self-link) mine.
posted by stevil at 10:20 AM on December 8, 2009


Buenos Aires has some truly amazing subway stations. Some photos here; I'm sure there are better ones.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2009


The 30th St station is nice though.

30th St Station is beautiful. Though I think it says something that they made sure you had to actually walk outside from it before you could get into the subway.
posted by 256 at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2009


Seconding Maudlin! I'd rank the Montreal metro system as among my favourite works of architecture anywhere. I'm a huge fan of soaring, brutalist spaces.
posted by Flashman at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2009


Also missing is 70s-era sci-fi Washington DC Metro ... e.g. here [another self link]
posted by carter at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2009


Those are amazing. Really great photography.

Here is the great grandfather of beautiful subway stations. The original, now defunct, City Hall station on the no.6 line of NYC's subway. You can stay on the train at the last downtown stop of the 6 to ride through the old station as it loops around to become the uptown 6.
posted by JBennett at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I agree that SEPTA takes their name's similarity with Septic way too seriously. I'd still say Septa/ic's stations are "artistic" commentary on human erosion. Specifically, the fact that walls are covered in big ass sharp paint & metal chips that will cut your ass means people don't touch the fucking walls, and hence no erosion. It make you appreciate normal wear & tear.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2009


man, NY's subways are lumpy shit.
posted by shmegegge at 10:36 AM on December 8, 2009


Cool photos, JBennett.
posted by carter at 10:39 AM on December 8, 2009


Any truth to the urban legend that the jubilee line went so overbudget because of the stations that they couldn't afford the planned signalling and rolling stock upgrade?
posted by JPD at 10:39 AM on December 8, 2009


I'm a huge fan of soaring, brutalist spaces.

Every time I go all I notice is the brutalism.

Also, it's kind of ironic that Museum station was renovated because I swear it's the least-used station on the whole TTC subway system. Most days you could take a dump on the platform with total privacy. Tourists walk in, anyone going to U of T tends to get off at St George.
posted by GuyZero at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2009


30th Street is nice, but not a subway station. Market East is ok, I guess, with that tiled corridor for the trains to run down... but also not really a subway station.

The only ones I can think of that aren't awful are 2nd Street, with that huge map of the region, and 5th, with the red-white-and-blue.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2009


I wonder when that photograph of Stockholm's Centralen station was taken. When I visited, I got to experience that station daily, but only at a rather brisk walk, as it was always so crowded. It's stunning to step out of a fairly standard tiled subway corridor into an enormous, blue-and-white cavern, but I didn't dare slow down to gawk at it.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:56 AM on December 8, 2009


chunking express: I just have to say that Toronto's Museum Station renovation entire transit system is totally half-assed, and the photographs make it look much nicer than it is.

Fixed.
posted by generichuman at 11:07 AM on December 8, 2009


My first experiences with subways was in Leningrad/St. Petersburg. The rest of the city was collapsing (as did one of the subway tunnels just after I left). Because of the decay Leningrad became my personal low-end benchmark for city infrastructure.

Now imagine my surprise on my next stop, New York, whose subways I expected to be newer, cleaner, airier, and more modern.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:07 AM on December 8, 2009


Huh, this thread is timely. I just took the subway in Stockholm last night for the first time, entering via the Stadion station. There's a giant rainbow arch cavern thing. Also a perfectly trim station compared to NYC grittiness. I've posted a trio of quicky iPhone pics here. That's a non-service dog in the last pic -- pretty cool.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 11:12 AM on December 8, 2009


The sleek, Logan's Run look of the DC Metro is nice, but I'd appreciate it more if they had actually given some thought on how to move people in and out of stations effectively. Form follows function. /derail

Love these photos!

posted by JoanArkham at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2009


These photos are great. Wish the NYC MTA would get some inspiration already because our subways are truly awful.
posted by tiger yang at 11:23 AM on December 8, 2009


I liked the subway stations in Budapest -- especially the more old fashioned ones.

Westminster in London is interesting -- it's also like being in a massive Death Star. I've gotten lost everytime I've been through.

But I won't hear people diss Toronto's cheery, bathroom-tiled platforms -- the style that dominates the Bloor-Danforth line. It's the only underground where you don't feel so underground, thanks to the bright yellows and reds, and light greens and blues and peach.

And the system as a whole is like Canadian health care -- sure, it could be better, anything could be better. But it's still better than what is in most American cities of the same size, because at least it's there. (And you can live your entire life without a car, even in the Toronto suburbs).
posted by jb at 11:40 AM on December 8, 2009


Awesome link! I have a thing for subways, especially stations that look like fancy old hotel lobbies or like spaceships. One subway system they missed is Tashkent, where there are apparently marble arches and chandeliers and excellent mosaics and glittery ceiling details. I've had like twenty dreams set in this hallway since the first time I saw a picture.

Meanwhile the city I live in has serviceable but perfectly boring stations. Oh, well.
posted by bewilderbeast at 11:48 AM on December 8, 2009


(I guess it's a platform, not a hallway, but it has a hallway air to it.)
posted by bewilderbeast at 11:50 AM on December 8, 2009


jb, I don't think people are dissing Toronto's bathroom tile subway stations. I certainly am not. The problem with the Museum reno is that is could have been SO much better and was fine the way it was.
posted by chunking express at 11:57 AM on December 8, 2009


The only thing that’s unique about the TTC is its typeface.
posted by AdamFlybot at 12:06 PM on December 8, 2009


Having been to Barcelona in October, I can vouch for the metro awesomeness. But then I was most impressed by the- cheapness, timeliness, and notsmellingofurine-liness of it.

Only the cheapness and timeliness persist in the heat of August.
posted by Kabanos at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2009


Interesting, but alas, New York, where the subway is as iconic as London or Paris and probably the only US city where you can say that, has really ugly stations, and it isn't just that they are old and unkempt, although that is part of the problem, but it was built in a utilitarian mind set. I generally don't mind - until I see what other cities have done. Will eagerly look forward to the WTC station hub if it ever gets done. Until then, the old Brooklyn bridge stop on the 6, if you can hide in the train to see it is about it for New York.
posted by xetere at 12:21 PM on December 8, 2009


Barcelona's makes we worry that Alex and his droogs are lurking behind a column to beat and rape me.

Seems more Tron-like to me. Step onto the platform, program.

Awhile back I'd spent an extended period in some very foreign locales, but didn't get hit with culture shock until arriving in Stockholm -- something about it being like home, but not. I don't recall feeling relief until I hit the metro and emerged in something that looked like one of the pictures in this piece -- some kind of underground colony cave on Mars.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:36 PM on December 8, 2009


shanghai – bund sightseeing tunnel

the bund sightseeing tunnel located in shanghai, china isn’t technically a subway system but rather a short distance transporter. measuring only 647m long, the train tunnel connects the bund to pudong. along the way the rider is bombarded with lighting effects, music and special effects that turn the ride into something out of this world.


I'm actually putting that right on the top of my NOT TO SEE list as I imagine that SEIZURE WARNING doesn't quite cover it.

The rest look pretty awesome.

My favorite subway-tourist story: I was in Paris and went through the Quatre Septembre station and took some pictures. Even the JAPANESE tourists were looking at me like I was mental. Someone from the group I was with (a bunch of Germans, if we want to talk about weird tourist behavior) actually asked me what the hell I was doing.

Quatre Septembre = September 4th = MY BIRTHDAY.

I wanted to steal a sign, but I didn't have room in my bag, so the photo has to do.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2009


So far my personal favourite are the Washington DC subway stations.

And yeah...the Museum stop on the TTC really doesn't belong in that list of really cool stations.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:14 PM on December 8, 2009


If you like this, you'll like this constantly updated list of metros that I double posted four years ago.
posted by tellurian at 2:50 PM on December 8, 2009


bewilderbeast: Meanwhile the city I live in has serviceable but perfectly boring stations. Oh, well.

Hey now, Corona's got a chandelier... um. University Station's decor has always reminded me of a high-school gym (HOME OF THE FIGHTING DUMPTRUCKS!), while Central and Churchill might as well be air cargo terminals. Seriously, they couldn't have gone for something a bit more open and colourful, given our hellacious winters?
posted by hangashore at 2:53 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Parque Metro stop in Lisbon is a personal favorite of mine. The walls are covered in maps made of beautiful handpainted tile.
posted by amelliferae at 2:59 PM on December 8, 2009


Any truth to the urban legend that the jubilee line went so overbudget because of the stations that they couldn't afford the planned signalling and rolling stock upgrade?

Not as far as I know. The stock on the Jubilee is from 1996, which is young for the Underground, so that seems to be false. There was capacity in the platforms for seven-car operation, and that was implemented over Christmas in 2005, but I don't think it was put back because it wasn't affordable.

As for the signalling, what I've heard on that is not so much that it was too expensive but that it simply didn't work in tests. If there'd been more time they might have fixed it before opening the line, but the hard deadline of the Millennium Dome's opening meant there was no leeway. Of course, they're fixing it now, but it's taken years of weekend closures (still ongoing!), which is less than ideal.

So, er, sort of but not really?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure we can agree London was unfairly overlooked. As well as Westminster there's Canary Wharf on the Jubilee, which admittedly impresses through sheer scale rather than subtlety, but still. There are definitely some older corkers too, like Holden's Gants Hill and Southgate. Robbed, I tell you.
posted by blech at 3:07 PM on December 8, 2009


Argh!

Toronto had a literally brilliant massive neon sculpture over the platform of Yorkdale Sunway Station, which the TTC decided to allow to deteriorate because they couldn't bother spending $5000 to maintain the transformers.

Shame.
posted by ovvl at 3:39 PM on December 8, 2009


When the Flickr groups that collect photos of the Munich U-Bahn stations started adding my pictures to their collections, I was sort of confused. I mean, obviously, there's a group for everything on Flickr, but... subway stations? But then I realized that while no one in their right mind would make a group for photos of the El or the T, there are enough photogenic stations like St.-Quirin-Platz and Candidplatz and even the U-Bahn part of Marienplatz (with its orange angles) to make it worthwhile.

Well, I guess there might be a few art pieces in T stations that are worth it - the bronze gloves in Porter, for example - but the El is a total loss. Take one photograph of rust and peeling paint against a grey sky, and you've really captured 'em all.
posted by ubersturm at 4:15 PM on December 8, 2009


Yeah, a lot of the Lisbon stations are really, really gorgeous. Not an awesome photo, but the Jardim Zoologico station has some great animal designs.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:26 PM on December 8, 2009


The pictures of Iidabashi Station in Tokyo are misleading, except for the sterile platform with the nauseating yellow supports. The Oedo Line, which is where that picture is taken from, was supposed to be a useful subway loop line around Tokyo, but it mostly consists of very small stations in the middle of nowhere, and is, as the newest subway, very, very deep underground. The amount of time it takes just to get to the platform makes using different trainlines simpler and faster. Thinking they might have a problem, they put "art" in all of the stations to attract/soothe riders. (The link goes to the official page for the stations and artwork, and has no actual art on the page, only links. Kind of goes with the lack of vision thing.)

On the other hand, some of the stations I saw in the Seoul subway system definitely deserve to make this kind of list. That, and Kyoto Station, while not a subway station, is absolutely beautiful.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:30 PM on December 8, 2009


it mostly consists of very small stations in the middle of nowhere

Hey, I lived out near one of those stations... There wasn't much there, I'll grant you, but it has taken a while to get new development moving.

The whole point of the Oedo Line was to improve transport in those parts of Tokyo (especially Shinjuku, Nerima, and Chuo Wards) that had relatively poor rail access after the streetcar lines were removed in the late 1960s. With the redevelopment of the Kachidoki and Tsukishima landfill islands that access is important. I lived in Ushigome, which is kind of Shinjuku's shitamachi. When the line opened it was almost entirely single-family residential, but now there are several new apartment buildings with more on the way. The line improved access to Shinjuku Station, albeit at a very high cost. Anyway, my point is that the line *is* useful, and as development continues along the line usage will rise. Since you live in Chiba, though, I'm not surprised that you wouldn't use the line very much, since JR lines or the Tozai Line are more accessible for folks coming from the east.

One thing about the photos of Iidabashi Station from the link: that particular entrance is used by so few people I would be surprised if anyone could tell you where it is. The station itself is, compared to most Japanese rail stations, rather avant-garde, but like all Oedo Line stations is too damn deep underground. Even though the newest line--the Fukutoshin Line--is almost as deep, the way it was built makes it seem more accessible. The station designs are more airy, but still rather boring.

The best-designed station in Tokyo is Shibuya Station on the Fukutoshin Line, IMO. Since Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando designed it, that's not much of a surprise.
posted by armage at 6:56 PM on December 8, 2009


Oh, and the stations of the Nakanoshima Line are probably the best-looking ones in Osaka.
posted by armage at 7:03 PM on December 8, 2009


Canary Wharf on the Jubilee, which admittedly impresses through sheer scale rather than subtlety

Canary Wharf Tube Station impresses not just because of its scale but because it makes an underground cavern turn into a bright airy place. But among Jubilee Line Extension stations I'm partial to Southwark too.
posted by grouse at 8:25 PM on December 8, 2009


Just wanted to join the chorus here of people criticising Philadelphia's subway stations. They are truly awful. There are some renovated aboveground stations that are fairly pleasant, but most of the rest are a terrifying, filthy warren of narrow, innavigable tunnels that double back on themselves in a cruel mockery of good, human-scaled design.

Notable here is the completely ridiculous and useless
"pedestrian concourse" under Center City, which allows an individual to walk in maybe a ten block radius in a barren, underground limbo without ever going topside. It represents a truly incredible waste of taxpayer money that could have been used to improve thing ABOVEGROUND, rather than excavate an underground promenade as wide as the street above it - five lanes, including sidewalks!

It's sad that something so important to our civic life as mass transit is treated as such an afterthought while many parking lots and garages and highways in the city are pristine and functioning. Shows where out priorities are.
posted by deafmute at 8:27 PM on December 8, 2009


"the bund sightseeing tunnel located in shanghai, china isn’t technically a subway system but rather a short distance transporter. measuring only 647m long, the train tunnel connects the bund to pudong. along the way the rider is bombarded with lighting effects, music and special effects that turn the ride into something out of this world. "

grapefruitmoon: I'm actually putting that right on the top of my NOT TO SEE list as I imagine that SEIZURE WARNING doesn't quite cover it.

Shit, late as usual.

But - as people have pointed out about the reality of some of the other stations here - the pictures of Shanghai's Bund Tourist Pedestrian Sightseeing Tunnel are, sadly, miraculous!

The actual experience during the micro train ride is all visible, badly strung fairy lights + tinsel-and-red-crepe-paper streamers + a wind machine.

A bit like a Xmas ghost train "for the kiddies."

At one point, just before the "ride", we were bossily pushed into a small room off the concourse, mimed at to put on a pair of enormous headphones each, they turned off the lights, and you had to listen to a poor recording of someone shouting "woooo-woooo" over the sound of a subway.

We thought it was hilarious. Our kids were righteously disgusted.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2009


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