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A Tour of NYC's Newest Subway Station With Its Architect

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Inside the new 7 train station at Hudson Yards. Photos by Max Touhey, unless noted.

New York City's 469th subway station opened last week, extending the 7 line to 34th Street-Hudson Yards. It is New York's first new station in 25 years, and has been a 13-year project for a team of designers led by WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. Dattner Architects served as the urban designer and design architect for the station, and I had the opportunity to tour the station with Beth Greenberg, principal in charge, and Emily Kotsaftis, project architect, from Dattner, to take a closer look at some of the subtle decision-making behind the light, bright, and (for now) disorientingly roomy station.

[The entrance to the new station in Hudson Park. Photo by Evan Bindelglass]

Toshiko Mori designed the droplet-shaped canopy (↑↓) that marks the entrance to the line. A second, identical canopy is now under construction on the north side of 34th Street. Mori and landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, responsible for Hudson Park, came on to the project in 2010, several years after Dattner had begun working on the stations. Mori's design starts at the top of the granite wall encircling the escalators, and the shape of the canopy echoes the curving planters, fountains, and benches in the first three blocks of Hudson Park to open.

[The canopy as seen from the park. Photo via MTA Flickr.]

The 30,000-passenger peak capacity for the station was set when Dattner got the job and the West Side Stadium was a twinkle in then-Mayor Bloomberg's eye. Given the quantity of development expected in and around Hudson Yards, it did not have to be resized.

[One of three Xenobia Bailey mosaics planned for the station.]

Xenobia Bailey's Funktional Vibrations (2014) provides a rare bit of color in the station (↑↓), and adds to a long design tradition of modern architecture looking to craft to add texture to functional spaces. Her two glass mosaic murals, one above the entrance escalators and the other in an oval recessed dome above the mezzanine, features suns, mandalas, and other radiant shapes on a cobalt background. Bailey is a fiber artist, and originally crocheted the design, which was translated into tiles by Miotto Mosaic Art Studio. A third mosaic will be installed in the northern station entrance.

Funktional Vibrations, Xenobia Bailey at the new 34th Street-Hudson Yards.

A photo posted by Alexandra Lange (@langealexandra) on

[A "slinky" section indicates where riders should enter.]

The architects wanted to make the architecture of the station as legible as possible without signage (though this being the MTA, there are many). The two tunnels down to the 7 train platform are marked by ribbed, stainless steel oval openings (↑), which are repeated on the upper platform below. They look like slinky sections, indicating that here's where you should head downstairs.

[The station service center, at left, on the mezzanine level.]

Greenberg describes the "station service center" (you can't call it a token booth anymore) as a building unto itself (↑), with a stainless steel façade, its own ventilation system, and a raft of controls. It is also air-conditioned, while the station itself is "air-tempered," to keep temperatures inside in a comfortable range in the 70s. She also worked hard to integrate indirect lighting, rather than glaring downlights, into the station's spaces, choosing white acoustic ceilings to dampen noise and be reflective.

[View from inside the funicular elevator.]

The Italian-made inclined elevators, which delayed the opening of the station, were working just fine on Thursday, providing a vertiginous look at the excavated tunnel and a purposefully slow ride down. The escalators in the other tube are faster, to mitigate joyriding and leave the elevators for people that need them. The Italian makers were shocked to hear the kind of abuse New York City transit elevators have to endure.

Hat tip to Harry Weese in the escalator tunnel @dattnerarch

A photo posted by Alexandra Lange (@langealexandra) on

Early in the project Greenberg and her team visited Harry Weese's award-winning stations for the Washington D.C. Metro, which have a distinctive flattened-oval profile and integrated concrete coffers. They dreamed of providing similarly grand caverns and small platforms at 34th Street but it was not to be. You can see an echo of Weese in the shape of the tubes (↑↓) and the high ceilings on the lower mezzanine. Greenberg and principal Richard Dattner also visited London's Jubilee Line Extension, which opened in 1999, and picked up on that line's modernist sensibility.

[The design of the lower mezzanine echoes Harry Weese's Washington D.C. metro stations.]

Greenberg and her team wanted to provide subtle cues to keep people moving through the intermediate space of the column-free lower mezzanine (↑). They sliced large, standard porcelain tiles vertically and horizontally to create the longer off-white horizontal rectangles that line the mezzanine and the train tunnels and act as a low-key arrow. The ceilings are as high as possible over the stair landings, to draw people upward, and the railings around the stair cuts arch outward (↓).

[To draw people up and out, the ceilings above the stairs are as high as possible, and the railings arch outward.]

Both the walls and the ceiling of the mezzanine are made of removable panels, which the architects hope will aid in maintenance over time and maintain the clean aesthetic of the station as a whole. Steel bands between the tile wall panels are placed on a 15-foot module, a nod to the distance between columns in the older stations. Above the ceiling panels is a cavernous space, almost as tall as the one passengers can occupy, which holds huge ventilating and air tempering ducts.

[The lower mezzanine.]

[The locations of the video advertising panels on the lower mezzanine were chosen by Dattner.]

Greenberg says the architects got to choose the locations of the video advertising panels (currently showing welcome-to-the-neighborhood ads from the High Line and Javits Center, plus promos for Supergirl—will she be saving anyone from the subway?). For the moment, there's much less advertising in this station than at the Fulton Center. There's also only a sole concession stand on the upper mezzanine, while the Fulton Center aims to be a retail destination.

[The platforms are 7 feet wider than the new Second Avenue Subway platforms.]

The platforms are 35 feet wide and 16 feet high, seven feet wider than those on the new Second Avenue line. Greenberg is hoping the MTA will replace the classic wood benches—which indeed look very out of place—with stainless steel ones. The architects tried to integrate the lighting, signage and ductwork along the edge of the platform as much as possible; the dark space between the sign and the top of the trains is part of the smoke capture system. The tile on the end walls is darker than that of the tunnels, another indication that that's not the way out.

Here's where the graphic designers groan. Dattner is responsible for the tile 34 (↑) on the train tunnel walls, which, while in standard Helvetica, is not a standard design across all of the new stations. Greenberg said she liked the way the negative space next to the 4 became an exclamation point. The pushed-together lettering is similar, though not identical to this controversial example in the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street station, which is reportedly part of a larger graphic project for the Second Avenue Subway. Greenberg says the architects weren't sure of the name of the station until recently; at one time, thinking two 34th Streets might be confusing, it was going to be called Hudson Yards, and they might have designed an HY tile instead.

· 7 Train Extension to Hudson Yards Finally Welcomes Riders [Curbed]
· 7 Train Extension coverage [Curbed]
· All Hudson Yards coverage [Curbed]

Hudson Yards

, Manhattan, NY 10001