Co.Design

No Joke: A Bench Made of 5,000 New York Subway Cards

Stephen Shaheen uses the power of Craigslist to turn a staple of every New Yorker’s back pocket into a splashy piece of furniture.

You can swipe them, sculpt with them, hell, you can magically raise their value to the raging chagrin of 8.4 million people. Now, thanks to one enterprising artist, you can park your behind on them, too.

Brooklyn-based Stephen Shaheen has taken a whopping 5,000 New York City MetroCards and turned them into a life-sized, "put it here while you wait 'til pigs fly before catching the C train' bench. Shaheen designed the furniture for a recent exhibit on MetroCard art and amassed the cards by posting an ad — ?$$ for old Metrocards! Fast cash?' — in the ?Etc." section of Craigslist.

The response? Holy moly hot. He gathered all the cards he needed in less than a week. One woman even worked with her family to collect more than 2,000 cards for Shaheen in just days. And we thought no one actually read "Etc."

"When I heard about the exhibit, I saw it as an opportunity to challenge myself to do something which at the outset seemed absurd," Shaheen tells Co.Design: "to make a sculptural seat out of these thin pieces of plastic that a person could actually rest on."

Incredibly, the bench is sturdy enough to seat three adults. To this, we owe a ?-inch-thick steel structural frame. Says Shaheen:

My original intent was to use MetroCards exclusively to create a self-supporting structure. I experimented with bending individual cards into tear-drop shapes, then attaching them inversely in rows, almost like the cell structure of cardboard. At that early stage, I was daunted by the sheer number of MetroCards this approach would have required. The use of steel allowed for much greater strength and durability and offered the option to play with the MetroCard's physical identity.

The resulting design looks like an arty version of Thomas the Tank, what with the base a pair of giant, looping wheels and the cartoonish yellow and blue of the MetroCard on glaring display. Shaheen used various types of glue to hold the MetroCards together: Gorilla Glue for individual cards; aquarium-grade silicone to create rows; and two-part plastic epoxy to strengthen high-tension areas (like the loops inside the wheels). Ultimately, he laminated sheets of MetroCards onto the steel frame in sections using contact cement.

The bench is not officially for sale, but Shaheen says he'll consider offers. Hey, MTA: How "bout it, with that flood of cash you've got coming in" Just kidding!

[Images courtesy of Stephen Shaheen]

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1 Comments

  • Marta Apple

    This metrocard bench is incredible. I wonder how many stories, how many pockets, how many swipes this bench has been through.

    What a fascinating aggregation of what it means to be a New Yorker

    To see some great Metrocard art (esp. mosaic portraits of Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday and others) go to