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Clever 3-D Maps Help Subway Riders Plan Their Escape

Navigating New York City’s labyrinthine subway stations is no easy feat. Some stations are spread over multiple city blocks, entrances are closed or open depending on the time of day, and boarding certain cars might put you on the opposite end of your transfer (though some guerrilla signage attempted to alleviate that problem). Architect Candy Chan devised a solution: 3-D illustrated maps that relay the layout of the MTA’s busiest hubs.

Inspired by Hong Kong’s subway diagrams, Chan painstakingly charts the staircases, exits, and platforms that make up the MTA’s subterranean world.

Chan starts by sketching the stations and photographing their nuances—like the MTA Arts for Transit installations that are hidden in plain sight—before turning them into computer renderings. She kicked off the project in July and began with the busiest stations—Grand Central, Herald Square, Penn Station—but is adding more to the roster. (She’s taking a poll to decide which to draw next.)

“I first challenged myself to document the stations simply because I thought it is something the city can use, but as the project develops, what set out to be a straightforward, mechanical exercise of surveying and drawing gradually turned into a journey of observation, discovery, and amusement,” she writes on her website.

It seems like a no-brainer for the city to officially adopt diagrams like Chan’s. While the existing signage helps a little with navigation, there’s plenty of room for a new system that conveys stations in three dimensions. Until then, Chan is selling posters at projectsubwaynyc.com.DB