subways and Fort York

Twitter is something else, eh guys?

I just sit here and everyone else finds links for me. It's great. I don't even know I want to find something until it appears. When it does I just have to write about it.

This go round we're talking architecture and public transit to start. We'll see where we end up.

Designboom had a neat post the other day detailing the best subway architecture going. I will now commence moving some of their pictures over here, then adding my own limited commentary. This post is basically me giggling uncontrollably at neat things and wanting to share said giggles more fully than a simple link would allow.
Holy Stockholm Batman! The entire system is stuffed with artwork, and they have some great design features, including the hacked out of stone feel in a lot of stations.

I'm always a fan of mashing the hyper-future into unfinished and naturally riotous spaces. The notion bears a connection to my aesthetic appreciation for classical architecture and the modern; having a sleek, electric tram silently snaking through a centuries old city-centre or a new windmill silhouetted in the skyline beside an ancient, stone belfry.

Nice lights Munich.
The joys of building a system starting in 1972 and being able to incorporate what other cities have already learned.
This one reminds me of St. Clair West station in Toronto, which reminds me of a lot of Metro stations in Montreal (not that I've visited them particularly intensively). Both in the colours and in the high ceilings. I love how that mirrored ceiling makes the space last forever.

Tempo from St. Clair West station. It's nice, but not all encompassing like the above example. I understand that making the station itself into the art (or at least part of the art on display) can be more expensive and difficult, but with bigger risks come bigger rewards (sometimes).
I like the clean lines in this Bilbao station. Apparently the whole system and all its stations were designed byFoster + Partners.

Or this epilepsy inducing little number in Shanghai. Because this transit system is so short it's more about the sound and light display you experience than actually moving.

Check out the amazing texture on the wall in Prague.

And the opulence you can find in Moscow.
Just because I like the future combined with nature, doesn't mean having a straight-up future future future is now look is bad, like they have at Drassanes Station in Barcelona.
So what to take from all this?

Basically we need to be bold. I'm aware of economic restrictions, but you HAVE to be willing to spend money. Something like a subway station can't be changed after the fact terribly easily, so you have to get it right the first time (I don't mean get it right in the sense that a perfect solution can be found, but instead that we need to remember this is building the city for the next 40, 60, 100 years and to change a design to save $200 000 now might result in pain and bother for years to come). Spend the money and after the basic architecture requirements are met, turn it over to the artists, or even better have the artists and architects working together from the beginning.

As people move through a transit system everyday, their existence is at least partially defined by the spaces that they pass through. If you make those spaces big, bold and inspiring the people get something positive from it. Prioritize these spaces and invest in them.

If the people hate the art I'm willing to bet they're going to complain, and THAT's good too! Complaint leads to more discussion and more discussion leads to more change. Nothing about art or architecture is static and the next big project will be influenced by the last.

The key thing to remember - and probably also the most difficult thing to wrap your head around given the brief time-spans most people and governments operate on - is that each one of these projects is building towards an unseen city of the future. The infrastructure and groundwork we lay now is what will support the layers of urban citizenship that will arrive in forms unseen tomorrow. And in an even more perfect world the groundwork we lay now should also appreciate some of that which was built in the past. The city exists in time as much as it does space.

It's tough. Even the best conjecture lacks absolute certainty. The people trying to envision what is to come and build accordingly are going to receive all sorts of complaints around cost and style. Only years later will people be able to see the brilliance and foresight in what they built (think of the under-bridge subway line on the Bloor Viaduct. If that hadn't been a possible add-on in the original bridge design the entire subway system in Toronto would be vastly different, or at least have cost way more). And of course, some of the ideas won't pan out, giving all the naysayers something to point to.

Toronto did get a mention in the above article, Museum Station's redesign was considered cool enough for a comment.
And I agree. They did a good thing here. It is a retrofit but imagine the fun they could have had if designing this station from scratch, trying to capture the same themes and images. Oh boy!


One more thing, non-subway, before I go.

Toronto is designing a new Fort York Visitor Centre. You can see the design proposals on Spacing Toronto. They're pretty neat and while I haven't passed judgement on any one, I recommend having a look at 4 first because its aerial view gives you a better idea of what's going on spatially.

This project interestingly connects to the previous post on the Gardiner Expressway. Fort York used to be right beside the lake. It's not anymore due to fill dumping and land extension, and is now wedged between the city and the Gardiner Expressway and the proposed visitor centre is actually going to exist at least in part beneath the elevated road.

As I said above, all these discussions on aesthetics are ongoing, with each piece adding to and elaborating previous physical opinions. Installing a fantastically designed visitor centre underneath the Gardiner brings together multiple eras, revealing both distinct moments of design (history, culture, society and everything) and how a moment in design-time lasts. Even after fashions change.

Just as a city's people move about and interact to provide its ever-changing social nature, a city's built aspects are not static. Each new piece of architecture reinterprets what is already there or was there before. Complete erasure (burying the Gardiner for instance) is not always feasible not necessarily desirable.

Given the Gardiner's decades-long role in Toronto and the lessons it has taught around prioritizing cars above people and neighbourhoods, re-interpreting it with more people friendly additions is a better way to go. As long as everything that gets built, no matter how avant-garde, remembers the person is the city's most important unit, it's difficult to really go wrong.

From pretty picture of train stations, to 200 year old forts and an expressway often called an eyesore, it's like a never-ending magical acid trip up in here.

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