Photos

In Praise of the Stockholm Subway's Breathtaking Art

Think of it as the world's largest public art exhibit.

Image
Imagea.org/Creative Commons

The Wikipedia entry for Stockholm’s Metro system says that it has 100 stations in use along about 65 miles of track. I seem to recall that Stockholm was one of the cities used to illustrate the concept of transit-oriented development in Michael Bernick and Robert Cervero’s 1996 book on the subject, Transit Villages in the 21st Century. I also know that Stockholm was an early adopter of congestion pricing for roadways.

Courtesy of Imagea.org/Flickr
Courtesy of Ingrid Truemper/Flickr

What I didn’t know until now, however, was that transportation innovation in the Swedish capital and its suburbs also extends to a flamboyant display of public art in its Metro stations. Indeed, The website Twisted Sifter relays the claim that the system is basically "the world’s longest art exhibit":

Travellng by metro is like travelling through an exciting story that extends from the artistic pioneers of the 1950s to the art experiments of today. Over 90 of the 100 subway stations in Stockholm have been decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs by over 150 artists. What a fun and inexpensive way to explore the art and culture of an incredible city like Stockholm!

map of the Stockholm Metro (by: Stonyyy, creative commons)


Courtesy of @raulds/Flickr

Several of the underground stations, especially on the system’s Blue Line, are left with the shape of the bedrock exposed, covered in sprayed concrete, as part of the exhibits. At the Rissne station, says Wikipedia, a wall fresco depicting the history of Earth's civilizations runs along both sides of the platform. In six of the stations the art is temporary and replaced periodically.

Courtesy of August Linnman/Creative Commons


Courtesy of Nenyaki/Flickr

Twisted Sifter says the movement to install art in the Metro began in the mid-1950s. There are guided tours of the highlights.  Enjoy these photos garnered from the collections of photographers generous enough to license their work for public use (as always, move your cursor for the credits). 


Courtesy of Kallie1/Wikimedia Commons


Courtesy of imagea.org/Flickr

For an especially fun presentation, watch this video (Spanish with English subtitles) of an animated host taking us on a tour of some of the highlights:

This post originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

  • Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. More
    Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. He is the author or co-author of Once There Were Greenfields (NRDC 1999), Solving Sprawl (Island Press 2001), Smart Growth In a Changing World (APA Planners Press 2007), and Green Community (APA Planners Press 2009). In 2009, Kaid was voted one of the "top urban thinkers" on Planetizen.com, and he was named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" in 2010 by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. He blogs at NRDC's Switchboard.