Reading the Moscow Metro

Taganskaya Station at 36 meters below Moscow streets

Taganskaya Station at 53 meters underground

The announcement that the 77-year-old Moscow Metro would be wired for Wi-Fi access later this year prompted my perusal of photos from a visit to the Russian capital, where, daily, some 6.5 million daily riders descend into the subterranean netherworld. The second heavily used rapid transit system in the world, after Tokyo’s, the Moscow Metro was first constructed in 1935 and spans over 12 lines and 185 stations.

Flipping through hundreds of images largely fixated on babushkas, I stumbled upon a couple divergent snapshots of the Taganskaya Metro station, off Taganka Square. The depot provides an archaeological cross-section of Moscow’s transformative urbanism from the 1950s to 1970s.

Connecting the Koltsevaya Line with the Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya Line, Taganskaya actually consists of two stations, one for each line, at 36 and 53 meters below ground, respectively. The latter, deeper station was built in 1950, at the height of post-war garishness so typical of Stalinist Neoclassicism; the former station, closer to the surface, was added in 1966 and designed in a more spartan fashion, privileging function over form.

Walking through the vaulted corridor of the lower station evokes a reverence that one normally finds in the arcades of Gothic chapels or the chateaux of the Loire. Bedecked in ornate chandeliers, the architecture of the early metro was meant to glorify the Communist project. But by 1955, Nikita Khrushchev condemned the excesses of Stalinism. The transition from Soviet adaptions of Art Deco to a Postconstructivism is apparent in the shift in typography from level to level.

The upper Taganskaya station’s utilitarian design and use of low-cost tech and materials — features which came to dominate Moscow station design for the remainder of the Cold War era — typify the majority of the stations’ look and layout today. Time, though, has added yet another twist: in the newer station, ceramic tiles slowly fell off the walls due to locomotive vibration. A sense of history and charm has creeped in where its designers had never intended.

This entry was written by Marcus Benigno , posted on Saturday January 21 2012at 08:01 am , filed under Architecture, Art and Design, Europe and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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