Subway Lighting Can Be A Work of Art

Subway Lighting Can Be A Work of Art

Creative lighting fixtures and light as an artistic medium both have the power to influence riders’ moods, satisfaction, and sense of place. Kaohsiung’s MRT system in Taiwan is a shining example of how a work of art can use light to enliven a public transit space.


Formosa Boulevard Metro Station, Kaohsiung Taiwan

Formosa Boulevard Metro Station, Kaohsiung Taiwan – Light pours in through colored glass to transform the station environment into a glowing otherworldly experience.

Formosa Boulevard metro station commonly known as the “Dome of Light,” became one of the city’s best-known landmarks and a popular destination for tourists, and even weddings. Titled “Wind, Fire, and Time,” the station’s artwork is the creation of Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata. It features 4,500 brightly colored glass panels, and is nearly 100 feet in diameter, making it the largest glass work in the world. The panels depict the story of human life, vividly referencing the themes of water, light, fire, and rebirth – with a positive message of love and tolerance. Commuters pass through this busy station under its warm glow while visitors stop to marvel at the beauty of the swirling scene.


Westfriedhof Metro Station, Munich

Westfriedhof Metro Station, Munich – Bold geometric lighting designs use color and light to give riders a sense of comfort in this public subway station. Photo by Micro P. Nuts.

Functional lighting elements are the focal point of Munich’s Westfriedhof Station. Architect Ingo Maurer and his team at Auer+Weber set out to design a station free from oppressive fluorescent lighting. Their solution: 11 oversized concave luminaries, each lacquered with a different interior finish. The creative lighting design bathes riders in warm light transforming the transit environment into one that is pleasant and comfortable.


Komsomolskaya Metro Station, Moscow

Komsomolskaya Metro Station, Moscow – Elegant chandeliers fit for the Czars create a sense of grandeur in a subway system known as “the People’s Palace.”

Stations within Moscow’s Soviet-era system are often called “the people’s palaces”. Among these elaborate stations, which make use of grandiose chandeliers and brass light fixtures to create a mood of elegance underground, Komsomolskaya is the crown jewel. The ornate hanging fixtures perfectly complement the Baroque interiors.


Bleecker St./Layfayette Station, New York City

Bleecker St./Layfayette Station, New York City – Artist Leo Villareal uses light as an artistic medium. Photo by Rob Wilson.

In 2012, Leo Villareal, the renowned artist behind “The Bay Lights,” a long-term light sculpture installed on the Bay Bridge, installed “Hive (Bleecker Street)” in New York City. The sculpture, an array of ceiling-mounted hexagons, is made of LED tubes, custom software, electrical hardware, aluminum, and stainless steel. Technology drives the ever-changing sequence of non-repeating color patterns displayed within the honeycomb form. The playful piece toys with the human brain’s desire to recognize and decode patterns.

The integration of creative lighting into projects has endless possibilities.