I propose to study the subway station as an architectural statement. In the age of rapid transportation, the subway has become an integral part of a city’s identity. As such, they are civic monuments that can potentially relate on an urban scale to both the individual neighborhood and the city as a whole. It is an area of design that has a fascinating mythology and a long history as a concept, spanning from the birth of mining up to the grand urban schemes of the twentieth century, from architects like Antonio Sant’Elia and Le Corbusier. I would also like to explore the subway as a notion of “passage” both in and of the urban fabric. Merging with the above and below ground worlds, the individual stations become links between the visible and invisible urban puzzle.
An essential part of this study would be to visit various cities in order to examine certain relationships between the city itself and its subway. From the over fifty-five existing subways, I have selected a limited number in order to make such a broad study meaningful. This selection has been based upon the considerable involvement of architects in each case and these additional criteria:
- Cities where the subways have become classical models: Paris, London, Vienna, Boston.
- Cities where some aspects of their history are addressed in the design of the subway: Moscow, Berlin, Mexico City.
- Cities where there is a diversity of underground activities within the subway: Montreal, Tokyo, New York City.
- Cities where there has been a conscious attempt at a specific aesthetic for the subway: Stockholm, Washington DC, San Francisco.
Some areas of study would be to look at the individual stations, their immediate surroundings, and their connections to the subway system and the city. Within these areas I wish to concentrate on what types of architectural elements call attention to, or describe, the subways, and how these elements have been employed; the nature of the spatial sequence in going from above to below ground; the uses of both natural and artificial lighting; and the relationship of art to the architecture of the subway. I will also investigate how the populous identifies with the subway as a civic structure as they pass through it in their everyday travels.
In each case I will conduct this analysis through a combination of photography, freehand sketching, and additional research wherever appropriate. The length of the study in each city will be from three to four weeks with some time allotted for a summation of the material gathered. The study of the subway as a civic monument will then enable me to apply this knowledge toward the design of a subway system for a contemporary American city as my Master of Architecture thesis project.