Stockholm's Incredible Futuristic Metro

Yohani Kamarudin
Yohani Kamarudin
Scribol Staff
Art and Design, January 28, 2013
  • In some places it feels like a giant cave – or perhaps a Bond villain’s base. In others, it resembles a science-fiction space station. And then there’s the part that looks like a blood vessel running through some kind of giant cyborg. Yet no matter which of Stockholm’s 90 decorated subway stations you visit, you’re sure to see something amazing.

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  • Stockholm’s metro system has been called “the world’s longest art exhibition,” and given that it’s 68 miles (110 km) in length and contains spectacular contributions from over 150 artists, this is definitely a title that fits. Anders Åberg and Karl-Olov Björk are the artists behind the Solna Centrum station, pictured above.

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  • Although many of Stockholm’s underground stations look remarkably modern and futuristic, some of the art and architecture actually dates back decades. In fact, the initial campaign to bring art to the Stockholm metro was launched in the 1950s, by artists Vera Nilsson and Siri Derkert. The first station to get a makeover was T-Centralen, in 1957, but surprisingly, its tiled designs still have an amazingly contemporary feel today.

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  • The subterranean artwork is full of variety. Here we see artist Takashi Naraha’s surreal Vreten station “sky cubes.” And even from the little we’ve seen so far, we think you’ll agree that taking the metro is a lot more exciting and less mundane in Stockholm than it is in most other cities.

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  • Looking at this photograph, it’s easy to see why artist Olle Ängkvist calls his 1975 Alby station design “The Cavern of Secrets.” And there’s a reason the architecture of some of these subway stations looks so cave-like. The stations were constructed by blasting through underground rock.

    In the 1960s, the rock faces were covered in concrete. However, in the ‘70s, a cheaper technique of spraying the rock with a layer of concrete that followed the shape of the surface was used, resulting in the kind of cavernous effect we see here.

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  • Ängkvist’s almost primitive-looking wall paintings at Alby station create a dramatic contrast with the more high-tech metal ceiling grid and gray tiled floors. Metal grids were placed on the ceilings (and sometimes walls) of the early stations to make the natural rock faces less threateningly suggestive of some kind of underworld.

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  • The name of this station is Näckrosen, which translates as “the water lily.” Artist Lizzie Olsson-Arle turned to this aquatic plant for inspiration when she decorated the station in 1975. This particular mural is displayed on an arched ceiling between two platforms. Näckrosen station also leads to Sweden’s famous Filmstaden movie studios, which influenced Olsson-Arle in her inclusion of paraphernalia from the film industry elsewhere in the Näckrosen design.

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  • Duvbo is another cave-like metro station work of art, this one created in 1985. Artist Gösta Sillén worked closely with engineers and architects to forge a look reminiscent of a rock face with strange fossilized remains. And as with the aesthetics of many of the stations pictured here, the mysterious design doesn’t seem to belong to any particular era.

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  • Here’s another look at Näckrosen station, this time showing pebbles embedded in the wall beneath the lilies plus a quote etched into the platform. The overall effect is quite soothing, which is just the sensation to calm stressed commuters at the end of a busy day.

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  • Here we see the blue and white, leaf-like pattern of T-Centralen station, which is on the Blue line. As mentioned, T-Centralen was the first station to get spruced up, back in the ‘50s, but Per Olof Ultvedt designed this section of the Stockholm metro hub in 1975.

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  • The decor at Rådhuset takes a simpler approach: earthy colors and architecture that wouldn’t seem out of place in an ancient underground temple or palace. In fact, the station is made to resemble a historical relic, complete with ‘artifacts’ like leather bundles and baskets as well as the stone pillar pictured above. Artist Sigvard Olsson created the look of Rådhuset in 1975. Interestingly, the station is 67 feet (20.5 meters) below the ground, making it the fourth deepest in Stockholm.

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  • Here’s some station art that’s likely to be a favorite with kids. Created by artists Enno Hallek and Åke Pallarp in 1973, a cheerful-looking giant rainbow sprawls across an arch at Stadion station. So, even if the skies are gloomy outside, this subterranean world can really brighten your day.

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  • The name Kungsträdgården, which translates as “king’s garden,” prompted photographer Alexander Dragunov to dub this photograph of Kungsträdgården station “In the Hall of the Mountain King II.” And with all that rock on either side, it certainly does look like it was carved out of a mountain. In actual fact, of course, it’s situated below the surface of the Swedish capital, 111 feet (34 meters) underground.

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  • Artist Ulrik Samuelson wanted the colors he used here to symbolize a baroque garden representative of Kungsträdgården’s history. The station itself was first built in 1977 and was artistically enhanced a decade later.

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  • One of Skarpnäck station’s most interesting features is this line of 17 granite benches set up on the platform. Richard Nonas designed the stone features in 1994, which makes the station’s design one of the most recently completed in these photographs. In addition to the rock benches, which remind Dragunov of Stonehenge, there are 17 carved blocks on the footbridge.

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  • With those shiny, steel-colored escalators ascending into what looks like the bowels of a rocky asteroid, this shot of Västra Skogen station has the appearance of a futuristic movie set. In contrast to most of the other stations in these photos, there are no bright colors in this section of Västra Skogen – designed by Sivert Lindblom in 1975. What it does feature, however, is Western Europe’s longest escalator, which is 216 feet (66 meters) long and rises 108 feet (33 meters).

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  • There’s no lack of color here at Mörby Centrum station, although the exact hues of the rock vary depending on the angle from which they’re viewed. Mörby Centrum’s design is the 1978 creation of artists Karin Ek and Gösta Wessel; and we have to admit, this is one station that does remind us of the decade in which it was unveiled.

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  • This shot of Rinkeby station appears like something out of classic 1990s sci-fi movie Total Recall. The red walls remind us of Mars, and the interplanetary feel is complemented by the metallic-seeming, almost featureless edges of the walls on the right-hand side. Completed in 1975, Rinkeby station is 7.5 miles (12.3 kilometers) from Kungsträdgården, on the Blue line. Interestingly, the district of Rinkeby is well known for the density of its immigrant population.

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  • The walls and ceiling here at Akalla station are a warm ocher color, which must make the “ocher grotto” a welcoming place to visit on cold Stockholm days. On the left-hand side you can see ceramic pictures on the wall that represent the daily activities of men and women. They’re the work of artist Birgit Ståhl-Nyberg, who designed the decor in 1977.

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  • In Stockholm, it’s not just the stations that are colorful; even the trains themselves are works of art! Here we see two parallel trains at Hjulsta station, where the vehicles stand out vibrantly against the gray surroundings.

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  • Perhaps the graffiti is on the floor because even miscreants don’t want to spoil Husby station’s pristine ‘cave’ walls. Graffiti has been a major issue for Stockholm metro stations since the 1980s and, along with other vandalism, costs the equivalent of just over $15 million a year to clean up. The concern surrounding graffiti is so great that the metro even has its own police task force to deal with the problem.

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  • The colors and textures of the Stockholm subway stations – like those seen in these enlarged children’s drawings at Hallonbergen – represent an innovative use of public space. Instead of settling for the blank walls and advertising-cluttered spaces of most underground train networks, Stockholm has chosen to beautify its metro and hopefully encourage the city’s many commuters to appreciate art and think more creatively. We can’t help but think how great it would be if all public transport hubs took the same approach.

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  • Thank you to Alexander Dragunov for sharing his incredible photographs of these quite spectacular looking stations with us.

    Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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