One of the challenges of moving from a Russian city to suburban America was the absence of public transportation. Since my recent move to New York City, I am excited to be able to commute using public transit again. However, being an everyday user of the NYC subway, it seems like the dark side of a successful city that is hidden and buried underground. It is a big difference compared to my familiarity with the subway growing up and visiting Moscow.
The Moscow subway, in Russian called the metro, originated in 1935, 31 years after the first New York line, and is 210 miles long. According to the NYC MTA, NYC has 665 mainline track miles. Moscow subway stations, besides serving utilitarian purposes, enhance the transit experience. Many stations are grand with high ceilings hung with chandeliers, and framed with marble columns. The reason for building stations in this style was to create an idealized underground castle while avoiding the heaviness of darkness.
Russian poet S. Kirsanov said: “We were going downstairs, but I think we ended up a floor above.”
The architecture of the station became a display for art and an opportunity for many artists to create bronze relief statues, paintings, and mosaics. It was seen as a synthesis of art and architecture.
As time went by, new stations continued to appear incorporating the most relevant art style. In 2005 "Exhibition Station" opened and it contains a level designated as a museum space with ongoing exhibitions of work from local artists.
Riding the Moscow subway is like an interactive time line of Soviet/ Russian architecture and art. It is meant to welcome and encourage residents and visitors to use the metro.