Tag: drawing

Documenting subway station design for 40 years

Lots of good-looking publications in Curbed’s picks for 2018’s “best design and urbanism books”—Archigram: The Book, Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America, and more. I’d forgotten about having read a piece or two in recent years on the book from printer, artist, and Rhode Island School of Design graduate Philip Ashforth Coppola, which is also included in the feature.

Philip Ashforth Coppola drawing NYC subway

Coppola has been creating painstakingly detailed ballpoint pen drawings of the design work at New York City subway stations—their decorative elements, the tile patterns, the typefaces, and more—since 1978 (I think that cartoonist Julia Wertz might appreciate his effort). In May of this year, Princeton Architectural Press published One-Track Mind: Drawing the New York Subway, a hardcover book that includes 130 black and white illustrations culled from a collection of thousands of sketches with the help of editors Ezra Bookstein and Jeremy Workman. Coppola’s handwritten annotations point to the names of architects or firms contracted for the original labor—based on research he’s conducted at the library or elsewhere—or simply to the colors utilized, as the book is in black and white. See Jessica Leigh Hester’s 2018 Atlas Obscura feature on the artist and his book. More details about One-Track Mind are at the publisher’s site.


Stand clear of the closing doors, etc.

NYC architect Candy Chan is “constantly amazed and annoyed by the city’s subway system” per her website. She’s perhaps more obsessed with the stations than anything else, and a few years ago, she launched her own examination of the stations by way of intricate 3D visuals that are representative of the structures themselves as well as what’s above ground. Even as there are 472 stations, Chan points out that “a three-dimensional representation of the stations does not exist.” Until now, anyway.

candy chan architect subway nyc

WIRED talked to Chan about her project and the enormous new sketches that are now on her site: “This time around, instead of one station per drawing with colored platforms, we have multiple stations per drawing and colored tracks that connect them all,” she writes at her blog.


Despite the complexity, Chan starts her sketching process with just pen and paper. She hoovers up information from Google and Apple Maps, which give her a rough idea of how the stations are arranged in space. Then, she hits the tunnels themselves, walking through the stations and snapping photos to understand how they fit together. What she’s found is that stations have their own hidden tricks. For instance, New York has some subtle hills and slopes, a topographical challenge last century’s subway builders had to finesse. Then there are confounding issues of inconsistency: “It gets so trippy when you see that in this station, a blue line is on your left, and red is on your right, but in the next station it’s flipped,” she says.

These drawings are so beautiful that I’m almost completely distracted from how terrible the whole transit system is in New York City. See the WIRED story and visit Candy Chan’s site.

Image: “City Hall Park” © 2018 Candy Chan.