From ‘Hollow Earth’ conspiracy theorists to the satirical sci-fi of Jules Verne, humankind has longed to believe in the allure of ‘inner space’ – alien worlds beneath our feet, often utopian in nature, and always exotic. The 21st century reality is often a lot more mundane. Cables beneath the sea allow international commerce to flourish, and subway stations around the world are best known for accumulating the dust of the city: grimy, airless holes populated by rats and briefcase-clutching commuters.
Thankfully, a handful of city planners and architects still dare to dream. In Moscow and Madrid, Westminster and Santiago, subway bosses with one eye on the tourist trade and the other on the outlandish tales of their childhood have taken bold risks in order to grace their cities with subterranean fortresses of rare beauty and imagination. In Tokyo, one architect – who might be considered equal parts science-fiction author – developed a system he labelled the ‘Web Frame’ in order to share his design duties with computer algorithms and natural patterns. The result is Iidabashi Station, a structure so alien it might be favourably compared to the movie designs of H.R. Giger.
Other architects borrow from other subterranean aesthetics to create their effect. Dubai’s BurJuman Station, formerly Khalid Bin Al Waleed, has an aquatic theme. Its seaweed colour scheme and jellyfish-like chandeliers plunge shoppers into a world that could come from yet another Verne novel. In Stockholm, on the other hand, many of the stations go for a look that might more accurately be labelled ‘geological realism’, leaving the rock face of the dug out earth exposed (if painted or lit dramatically) so that passengers are never under the illusion that they’re anywhere but hundreds of feet beneath the Swedish capital.
So if you, as so many others, dream of worlds within our own, it could be time to grab your metro card and hit the subway. For a detailed look at some of the subterranean highlights of our international cities, check out this new infographic, and prepare to head down into the netherworld.
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