Art of the subway

It’s a day for snatches of free music: bells,
sirens, a saxophone echoing the spheres,
industrial-strength percussion from a tribe
of project kids, the techno beat
of sprockets as trains reel overhead
like runaway strips of film.
— Twenty Feet Above The Street, Stuart Dybek

The London Underground map — benchmark for all transit information design since it was created in 1933 and a work of art in its own right — was based on an electrical circuit diagram. There’s something about depicting conduits for the transport of humans using visual language developed to denote conduits for the movement of electrons that is captivating to me, a suggestion of what we really want: seamless teleport from point A to point B.

3D Tube Map, Corey Clarke

Subways have an interesting relationship to art. For a period the cars themselves were the most desirable canvases available. Then the art went inside, became sanctioned. But most often subways are the subject-matter, creative fodder for the good, the mediocre, and the atrocious. Sometimes subway trains are the means of art production themselves. Or even the means of documenting the process of production. Now that’s travelling full-circle.

2 Responses to “Art of the subway”

  1. Matt K. says :

    The 3-D Tube map is awesome. This site on disused stations on the Underground is one of my favorites:
    There’s also, of course, Geoff Ryman’s 253:

  2. John says :

    Oooh, didn’t know about 253. Thanks for the link.
    Another thing I love, though not strictly in line with the post’s topic, is the SF Market Street Railway. The city has purchased and restored dozens of streetcars from cities all over the world. The fleet is gorgeous and utterly different. Let’s hear it for standards in track gauge!