A Virtual Tour of the Best Subway Art and Design in NYC


Just because transportation is practical, doesn’t mean the ride has to be ugly. If you commute along New York City’s subway system, chances are you’re too preoccupied or in a rush to appreciate all the lovely visuals. To rectify this, art historian, Tracy Fitzpatrick, is leading a talk and tour this Thursday through the underground tunnels, making stops at all the design highlights, including the hidden and well-known, the modern and historic. In the meantime, we asked Fitzpatrick to curate a virtual tour of the various spots she and her group are likely to visit.

1. Designed by George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant La Farge in 1904, this City Hall Station ceased operations in 1945, but is still available to the public through the New York Transit Museum.

2. Masstransiscope: Designed by Bill Brand in 1980, these 228 painted panels can be viewed from the B or Q train heading into Manhattan after the Dekalb Ave. station.

3. At Astor Place you can see reproductions of the original cast iron and glass structures commuters would use to enter and exit the subway system.

4. Framing Union Square: In 1998, Mary Miss incorporated six eagles into 14th Street/Union Square station. The eagles were all used for the initial construction of the station in 1904.

5. A “B” surrounded by Dutch tulips at Bleecker Street. Another original flourish by Heins and La Farge.

6. New York in Transit: Jacob Lawrence designed this glass mural for the Times Square/42nd Street station. It was his last public work, and completed posthumously in 2001.

7. The Control House at West 72nd Street. Another similar-looking building was constructed across the street after renovations in 2002 to provide more room for commuters to come and go from the station.

8. To the west of Central Park at the 96th Street station, there is an emphasis on having natural light fill the station, much like the early designs.

9. Built in 1904 and located at 11th Avenue and 58th Street, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) Powerhouse stored the subway’s engines and generators. It ceased operations in the 1950s.

10. Blooming: An artwork designed by Elizabeth Murray in 1996 featuring steaming cups of coffee and trees in bloom. The work is located at Lexington Avenue/59th Street.