This past January, after 23 years of construction, Kazakhstan opened the world's 'youngest' subway system to much acclaim, its mix of erstwhile period decor and high-tech gadgetry provoking much internet chatter. While that subway favored opulent surface treatments and smooth vaulted spaces, Stockholm's underground transit (the Tunnelbana) opts for a more "textured" environment, with rock-hewn arches and ceilings that remind the commuter that they are descending into the depths of the earth.
These "cave stations"--located on the red and blue lines--are part of the metro's 90-plus stations embellished with art, which are collected in a vast corridor of what is called the world's longest art gallery. Frescoes, sculptures, and installations are applied or embedded directly onto the bedrock, itself stained with a palette of bright and garish colors that present a totalizing context in which the individual works are inserted.
The Tunnelbana arts program grew out of a public arts initiative that began in the 1970s, and which has since expanded to encompass a vast, if sometimes oppressive collection of work from over 140 artists, from permanent fixtures to temporary installations. They are arrayed in countless configurations along the rocky terrain and tiled floor, forming cacophonous, even hallucinatory panoramas that prove a remarkable contrast to the sparse environs of, say, the New York Subway.