Back to the grind finally!
When I started Project Subway NYC, I did a (maybe not so thorough) search on the internet to see if anyone has attempted to do something similar. I don’t know how this escaped me, but recently I came across this clip from “Great Big Story”:
Philip Coppola has been drawing and documenting New York City’s subway system, one station at a time, since 1978. He has since published four books in a series called “Silver Connections”, which are available on newyorkboundbooks.com:
Mr. Coppola’s quest did get some press, but the reason that it does not get more attention, has probably to do with the fact that he tries to keep a very low profile. Luckily and coincidentally, two weeks ago there was a screening of the documentary about him, by director Jeremy Workman, and so I got to see him speak. I went and I enjoyed the film as well as the Q&A session a lot. Mr. Coppola talked about his process and methods, and the audience discussed both the scholarly and eccentric side of him.
The film, called “One Track Mind”, is 30-minute long and is available on Amazon:
Two weeks ago I presented at Parsons at the "Mall City / Subway City" event, which was a celebration of Professor Stefan Al's forthcoming book < Mall City >, and an interesting discussion about the idea of Asian urban malls as extensions of mass transit systems coming to New York.
A lot of questions were raised: Are malls public spaces? Are malls just bringing the suburban life into the city? Can small businesses survive in malls? Where is the demand coming from? The concept works in Hong Kong, will it work in NYC?
Project Subway NYC started by being a simple drawing exercise, but I am pleasantly surprised by how it is slowly turning into a basis for an examination and exploration of this networked system which has economic, social, and cultural impact on the city. Now I am even more excited and motivated to keep going!
A belated big thank-you to all of you who made it to the event. It was a fun and rewarding experience in itself, but being able to share with my own friends and colleagues made it all the more meaningful and encouraging.
I have stopped producing drawings since November - between then and now I have made a competition entry (with a subway-themed fairy tale), went back to Hong Kong for two weeks, prepared for this "Mall City / Subway City" presentation, and most importantly regrouped my thoughts and vision about where I want Project Subway NYC to go. Now that it's finally getting a bit warmer, it's time for me to get my clipboard ready and get back in action!
The lecture tonight is going to be at the Parsons East Building, at 25 East 13th Street. The nearest subway station is the 14th Street Union Square station. If you are taking the subway, check this out:
I know it's a little messy and hard to read, but basically,
if you are taking the L train, walk all the way west;
if you are taking NQR, walk all the way south; and
if you are taking 456, walk north on the platform, then walk all the way west.
Here is Google Map:
Hope to see you all!
I am really thrilled and honored to be invited to do a presentation at Parsons next Thursday, at 6pm. Afterwards I will join a panel discussion with Stefan Al, Carol Wlllis, and David Grahame Shane, moderated by professor Brian McGrath. It will be about malls, subway systems, and consumerism. If you are interested, RSVP at this link. Will be great to see you there!
For the longest time, subway stations were represented by a singular symbol "M" on most map apps. I just realized recently that since iOS 9, apple map has been showing the footprints of the stations in faint pink, and individual exits in little orange dots, like in this screen shot:
Even though these are 2-D, this additional layer of information is in line with the goal of Project Subway NYC, which is to understand the subway stations not as a single point in space, but as part of a network that branches to various destinations in the city. So now if you have an iphone, you don't have to rely on MTA's neighborhood maps alone. Pretty neat, pretty neat!
I am a big fan of rules of thumb - anything that dumbs down complex systems into bite size phrases one can easily remember and apply.
Not sure if it is obvious to everyone but one thing I realized when I'm doing this project is that "When I am in Manhattan, facing uptown (north), the uptown train is always on my right". And I thought, you can just remember the word "UPRIGHT". I hope a gif like this will help too:
Since I launched this project last year, many people have asked me the same question: Can you actually do that? As in, can you just walk around in the subway stations and draw the layouts? I have to admit I only assumed it was okay, but in hindsight I shouldn't have assumed anything. So as I resume my drawing drill, let's take a moment to review the MTA's rules of conduct here:
As far as I can tell, there are only two sections that could potentially have something to do with surveying and drawing:
Section 1050.7 - Disorderly conduct
Can't find anything in this section; and
Section 1050.9 - Restricted areas and activities
The only provision I find relevant is this:
(c) Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.
So, if I understood the rules correctly, as long as I do not use flash when I take my photos, and do not create any trouble, or cause any disturbance or interference to the operation of the train system, I should be fine.
This is a project I really want to continue to develop, and the last thing I want is to get into trouble. If you think I missed anything, please drop me a comment, thanks!
I have been introduced to the world of video games recently, and I happen to know today is the big launch of this game called "Tom Clancy's The Division"- a game that takes place in a doomsdayesque / apocalyptic New York City. The game features a highly detailed NYC - streets, shops, landmarks... and subway stations! Here are some of the images and clips I found online:
One of the video shows a "14th Street" station (not sure which one) and another one shows "Penn Station". I wonder how accurate they are - are they made up or did someone already go through the same exercise I did, scoping out every station? If they are accurate, maybe I can make my next batch of drawings by "surveying" inside this virtual reality...
Poll results for next batch of five
I went back to Hong Kong for Chinese New Year in the beginning of this month, and here is a picture of me standing next to the station map at Tai Wai, where I am from. It was interesting going back to where it all started, and I am even more convinced today that this project is worth pursuing.
My break from this project was longer than I thought it would be - but now that I am back in NYC, refreshed and energized, I am ready to start drawing again!
As the holiday season approaches I decided to take a break from drawing (If you haven't voted though, please do so because I will most probably start drawing again in January).
Every year I try to find a creative way to make a Christmas tree, and this year there's no better theme than the subway theme, check it out:
If you want to make your own, you can follow these instructions:
Or you can watch this video too:
On behalf of Project Subway NYC, I wish everyone a year of much love, happiness, and not too many train delays. Happy holidays!
Which stations should I draw next?
The subway may open 24 hours a day, but some of the exits do not! As I do research on the last station of my second batch at the 42nd Street Grand Central Station, I realize quite a few exits open to the inside of office buildings, and they only open on weekdays, during office hours:
Once I am done with Grand Central, the remaining tasks are organizing and formatting. My goal is to do my second launch - with 5 new images - on or before Cyber Monday, 30 Nov. Stay tuned!
Since the 34th Street – Hudson Yards station was opened in September this year, I have updated my Times Square drawing to show 7 train running both ways!
Coming back uptown, I tackled Lexington Avenue - 59th Street next. I mapped out the entrances in the first visit:
This is the kind of thing that kills all architects with pet peeves:
And I love this colorful Alice in Wonderland themed mezzanine!
Having picked up some fishballs from the supermarket and sipping bubble tea, I found myself in the Canal Street station.
See this part is so tight they have to put a railing to prevent people from walking straight into the track..
And there is this part of the station I have never been to, with this wall with funny symbols:
In an architecture office, the term "subway tile" is mostly used to describe a standard, white, rectangular tile that's 6" (wide) x 3" (high). As I take a closer look at the subway stations in the city, I realized the 4 3/8" x 4 3/8" square tile is just as, if not more common, than the 6 by 3 one. They look like this:
Here is their scale in relation to a person:
And in context: