Is Europe’s best designed public space underground in Munich?

Is Europe’s best designed public space underground in Munich?

Munich’s Metro system-wide design is big, geometrically bold, and a must see for visitors and transit planners.

Built at the same time as the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART system, Munich’s U-Bahn is a triumph of design that provides riders with a unique sense of place at each station. Built in anticipation of the 1972 Olympics, The U-Bahn’s stations originally suffered from boring functional minimalism. But as the system expanded, city leaders upheld the importance of bold redesign to change the riders’ experience and perception of Munich. As new stations were added and old stations renovated, this comprehensive design approach changed the U-Bahn into one of Europe’s most memorable subway systems.

In the 1980s, Rolf Schirmer, a member of the city’s subway planning council wrote that transit stations should help inspire a positive mood for subway riders. “The use of artistic elements should help make a passenger’s wait more pleasant, something that cannot generally be said of subterranean, mostly artificially lit, spaces. This already indicates what a subway station should not be: […] aggressive, dreary, or oppressive” 1


Candidplatz station, Munich

Candidplatz station, Munich – Subway art in Munich is not limited to an occasional mural. Rather, station-wide design transforms the entire experience of the space. Photo by Flickr user Hannes Mauerer.

Candidplatz, Dülferstrasse, and Georg-Brauchle-Ring stations each use the full color spectrum to enhance the sense of movement as riders pass through the space. Georg-Brauchle-Ring station’s “The Great Journey,” by Franz Ackermann, is made up of 400 large metal panels. Color block tiles, interspersed with images from postcards, maps, paintings, and photographs, bring a soaring sense of energy into the cavernous and once drab environment.


Georg-Brauchle-Ring station

Georg-Brauchle-Ring station – Clean design paired with a bold and energetic wallcovering make this one of Munich’s unforgettable stations. Photo by Flickr user Harald Link.

Moosacher St.-Martins-Platz station walls feature “Foresty,” a work of art comprised of more than 75,000 photographs by Masayuki Akiyoshi. Inspired by the region around the station, the artist’s images are displayed chronologically to show changes in color through the seasons. From a distance, the undulating hues are not unlike that of a forest, riders will discover something new each time they take a closer look at the individual images.


Moosacher St.-Martins-Platz station, Munich

Moosacher St.-Martins-Platz station, Munich – Thousands of small images offer commuters the chance to see something new everyday.

Munich’s system-wide station design uses bold colors and patterns to provide riders with an immediate sense of place. Each unique station contributes to the memorable experience of riding the U-Bahn.


1 Jaffe, Eric. The Architectural Spectacle That is Munich’s Metro. City Lab. November 14, 2012.