At the end of 2015, A+M was invited to enter a two-stage competition for the design of a new station for legendary Moscow Metro. A+M won Stage I. Shown below is the Stage II proposal, drivenby A+M’s search for meaning and beauty in everything that is common, ubiquitous, always in plain sight and therefore often invisible and forgotten. The famous interior worlds of the early metro stations in Moscow provided a challenging context – how to formulate a new and contemporary solution that isn’t foreign to its unique precedents?
Legend has it that the marble and granite interiors of the early stations were more the result of necessity than choice – in the early 1930’s the ceramic tile industry (the material of choice in Paris, London and NYC subways) was virtually non-existent in the Soviet Union. Stonemasons and sculptors were however available, and so was the resolve to make something unique – and the result, driven by circumstance, formed a magical architectural ensemble. In the 2010’s, the situation is reversed – cheap materials are in abundance, while skillful professional labor is not, the conceptual vision is blurred, and the budgets are thin. A+M embraced these conditions, and finding inspiration in standard studded tile and its color palette, in the remote site that once housed a fabric-dying factory, and in the glimpses of shared childhood images and experiences.
How to create a unique local contemporary yet deeply meaningful experience in this station, embracing the limited budget and strict material palette guides the design approach? The proposal is to closely examine the properties of the tactile studded resilient tile demarcating the platform edges, and its iconic color, associated with metro across the globe – the “safety” yellow, orange, red. Can color alone carry meaning? How to make the subway experience unique, yet meaningful, relatable, even educational? This material (industrial linoleum, highly washable, flame- and slip-resistant, and resilient), texture, color is already used in many metro stations worldwide, and it is usually quite utilitarian. The idea that an underground station would be a world onto itself, where bold, uncommon color combinations are acceptable isn’t new - many world’s metros have this feature (Madrid, Stockholm). In 1930’s and 1950’s metro stations in Moscow too became unique worlds – where lavish materials and extravagant artistic techniques created incredibly colorful worlds. How to reference this without repeating it?
The solution relies on two ideas. One is that large areas of studded color tile would produce a uniquely rich effect. The other – is that these fields of color can become deeply meaningful and relatable by referencing memories that are shared by nearly all Russian citizens. Every child in Russia learns “every hunter wants to know where sits the pheasant” as an easy way to remember the colors of the rainbow. Terekhovo, once a village with a fabric-dying factory and a hunting estate, can become a place where these colors and this mnemonic device spring to life. With the help of mosaic inserts (like those found on some platforms of NYC subway, but using the digital mosaic layouts), the hunters (sampled from Vasyli Perov’s famous “Hunters at rest” from Tretyakov Gallery, also featured in every textbook on Russian literature) and pheasants will come to life, as names, colors and images. Simple idea – but complex possibilities! To supplement the platform experience, all signage will be based on the texture grid of the resilient tile, and any additional features (benches, railings, etc) will also be distinctly colored.
The descent into the world of color begins, appropriately, with the color red of the Moscow Metro’s “M” logotype. We propose to create the pavilions covering the entries out of red fiberglass panels and simple metal structure that take the M-logo as their shape. The pavilions glow at night, and beacon to patrons during the day, in bright red (красный). As the visitor descends into the underpass, the resilient tile covering the walls morphs from red to orange of the ticketing hall.
There, in the underpass, on the orange walls the visitor encounters mosaic inserts sampled from Perov’s “hunters” (оранжевый). Passing down the escalators, the visitors descends under a large panoramic mosaic of the close-up fragment of pheasant’s feathers (north entry) and the close-up of the sky (south entry) from Perov’s painting. On the platforms, in bright yellow tile (желтый) wrap the walls and columns, the visitors can read the name of the station, see required directional signage – all cut into the resilient tile of the surfaces. There also one finds wooden benches stained with colors green (зеленый) and blue (голубой и синий). Eventually the mosaic inserts, hidden around some of the columns the pheasants (фиолетовый) appear. The rainbow is complete.
We believe that given this approach will result in a unique local experience at Terehkovo that is nevertheless informed by both history of Moscow metro and that of many other notable subway systems – a unique yet global experience.
In addition to the standard metro navigational signage (maps, directional and regulatory signs, etc) which will be integrated and deployed throughout the station, starting from the exterior, we also propose to introduce certain graphic elements that would allow the passengers, especially local residents, to form cognitive maps of the station and its surroundings, particularly the exits and underpasses. It is widely known that the connection between city above and subway below is often disorienting even for experienced subway riders. It is also known that people form their cognitive maps differently from geographical maps – in other words they tend to rely on landmarks, not directions. In a place like Nizhnie Mnevniki, which has not yet gotten any architectural landmarks, and on a metro line that is circular (so there is no terminal stops), what can be done graphically? For example, we introduced the characters from Perov’s “hunters” and images of pheasants in the underpasses so that the rider can remember if their “home” exit is the one with “hunter with a funny hat” or a “red pheasant” – once this cognitive connecting is formed between the image and the physical entrance it will make navigation easier. Immediately past the turnstile we introduced “decision making circle” – a moment where signage on the ceiling shows the stations on the new circle line in their order of distance from Terekhovo in both directions and in relationship to a geographical map on the floor. Finally, on each platforms, there are two different large signs – one that describes the story of the hunters in red and orange (going north) and one that describes the pheasants in purple and blue (going south) – as a distinct visual directional clue.