MTA Subway System, NYC



Can architecture change habits? 

Can we make maintenance fun and vital?
Can we learn, travel, and exercise on the subway system?

Our project imagines how the NYC Subway can support the cultural life of the city beyond transportation.  

This studio encourages playful, inventive and smart interventions in the city to tweak, alter and subvert existing urban networks and systems. Inspired by the complexities that make up and characterize New York City, the L-train shutdown served as the inspiration for the studio exploring the theme of ‘Disruptions in the City’.




 What started as an interest in the maintenance operations of the NYC subway system had become an exploration of the many ways the subway supports our daily lives.

The conventional maintenance of the system— such as the repair of Canarsie Tunnel, routine service to the rolling stock, and the upgrades of physical assets— cannot hold if cultural forces and habits of neglect prevail unchecked. 

1. This image shows a NYC subway car being dumped into the ocean to create artificial reefs that enhance local fish habitat. This bewildering method opened up our imagination around this project to create a sense of wonder, surprise and playfulness. 

2. Sketch of the diversity of people who build their lives around the subway system in New York City. 

3. We mapped the sequence of events that lead up to the announcement by the MTA to shut down the L train Canarsie Tunnel for repair work. 

4. We collected anecdotes and profiles of individuals who would be severely impacted by this proposed shutdown, including students, families, and MTA employees. 

5. Re-imagining playing cards allowed us to document and tracked various players in the vast network of the NYC subway world from rolling stock, to equipment, to staff. 


By redefining what maintenance both entails and supports, the NYC Subway’s Cultural Maintenance Program imagines a future in which the subway supports many more aspects of our daily lives beyond transportation—including wellness, work, leisure, living, and education.





Scenario 1 - MTA Fitness Program

Designated subway cars would be retrofitted to become change rooms and workout spaces to allow for those wishing to change, stretch, and warm up en route. It would tie in with MTA gym facilities constructed on existing MTA owned land by train tracks, in close proximity to subway stations and platforms. Members can purchase merchandise, clothing, and will have their Metrocard built into a fitbit for convenience. 

Scenario 2 - Weather-chaser Subway Program

Specific train cars will be redesigned to take part in the Sunset Subway Program with long benches that open to the side, ideal for a picnic or a day trip around New York City's best outdoor spots. The Weather-chaser Program is in addition to the current express and local trains. It's speed will be determined by the season, time of day, and particular weather conditions. 


Scenario 3 - MTA After/Summer School Program

Students will be able to learn en route to their schools but also take part in After School and Summer Programs on the MTA's trains. Different classes will take place in different locations, taking advantage of the city's offerings accessible via the subway. For example, after class school children can visit Central Park, the outdoor pools at Astoria Park, drawing lessons in Bed-Stuy, and music classes in  Williamsburg on different days of the week. 


06. The maps illustrates the current MTA system of train tracks akin to veins running through New York City. Collages imagine a future subway system that goes beyond mere commute and transit. 

07. Visualization of the MTA Fitness Program that allows for people to access track-side gym facilities that are connected by specialized subway cars, merchandise and new fare media.