The Art and History of the Swedish Metro: The Blue Line

I am somewhat of an admirer of arts. That is why when I was still in Lahore I was thrilled to be moving to a place which was home to the longest art gallery in the world. This coupled with a modest interest in history was enough for me to make me take a tour around the ever so popular metro art galleries. The metro is a series of almost 100 stations running over 110 km through Stockholm in an intricately laid pattern created by around 150 artists, engineers and sculptors.

There are 3 lines, blue (T10, T11), red (T13, T14) and green (T17, T18, T19). This is going to be a series of blogs dedicated to the art and history of the metro system. This first part covers the blue lines which run from Kungsträgården till Hjulsta (T10) or Akalla (T11) and back. Here we go:

 

Kungsträgården (I love this one):

This metro station is located in Normalm and is the lowest station located 34 metres below ground level in the entire subway. It was the 91st station opened in 1977. Designed by Ulrik Samuelson in 1977, the checkered pattern puts a harlequin theme to the floors and ceilings. The Makalos palace that was the residence of one of the noble families, was located above in the past and is said to be the inspiration behind the art. It was destroyed in a fire in 1825 but its memory remains in the patterns of this station. The consistent red, green and white is linked to the history of “The King’s Garden” representing the green Baroque gardens, the gravel pathways and the marble statues of the grounds respectively. You will also find gargoyle faces on the walls at the platforms which you might like if you liked gargoyle cartoons as a child.

But the uniqueness of this tube station doesn’t end here. If you walk around you will also find archaeological remains of marble columns and stone statues from the 17th and 18th century which make the station nothing less than a museum. Highly recommended.

 

T-centralen (The crazy busy station):

If you come to Stockholm, there is one station that is impossible to skip and it is this one. It is where all metros and the pendaltåg (the other train) meet making it by far the busiest station. It was inaugurated in 1957 to connect Slussen and Hötorget, which are both on the green line. Approximately 167,000 people travel through T-centralen everyday according to the Stockholm Traffic Agency. Currently it has three levels but it is said by 2017 a new level will be added below the lowest level.

The blue line section of the station is decorated by the artist Per Olof Ultvedt in 1975 using the same colour, blue. The images of workers on the walls and ceilings was a way of honouring the workers who worked in T-centralen daily. You will also observe olive leaf patterns in blue representing the ancient Olympics. The depth and colour of the station offers a certain kind of calmness passing through the busy metro hub.

Rådhuset and Friedemsplan:

The first one is located under the Court House (Swedish translation “Rådhuset”) with the City Hall and police headquarters nearby. Like most of the metro stations, this was also opened in 1970s. The walls are deep red and make use of organic architecture like many other metro stations in Stockholm. You will see huge round columns incorporated into unsculptured walls and ceilings.  It can feel a bit eerie walking through what appear like a series of red caves. Maybe the colour scheme and ambiance has something to do with the first monk settlement on this island in the 15th century. Also try to look around for a pair of giant boots up on the ceiling on one of the platforms. Wonder what they were thinking there!

Also a busy station, Fridemsplan has two lines meeting here, the blue and the green. Looking at the giant compass, anchor and a small sailing boat, you can see the caves of this station meant for the blue line have a naval theme. Some of the passages are painted green, which also has a calming effect. The station was designed by Moller and Renqvist in 1975 and was inspired by the conservationist movement in Sweden at the time and the introduction of protection of shores to the Nature Conservation Act. You can also find very colourful abstract art on one of the platforms.

 

Stadshagen, Västra Skogen, Huvudsta, Solna Strand and Sundyberg C:

Stadshagen has folded undulating sheets of aluminium painted with multi-coloured sporty patterns like a football match with players scoring a goal on both sides (wonder who the teams are, one is Swedish for sure) and a marathon, installed against the walls. It only has the blue line running through it.

Våstra skogen literally means the Western Forest and has multi-coloured geometric tiled fixtures placed in different places. It also has the longest escalator in western Europe. This one seemed to be one of the most quite stations to me. Must be the time. It was opened in1975 but the artistic work by Silver Lindblom was not completed until 1985.

Huvudsta has green walls and ceilings. Maybe it has something to do with the hanging gardens of Babylon. It also comes across as really spacious and peaceful because of the colour scheme.

Solna Strand is interesting. It appears to have blue cubes inserted into the floors, walls and ceiling and represent deconstruction of the heavens into the walkways of the common people in the metro, the artistic work of Takashi Naraha.

Sundyberg centrum at first glance appears to resemble other stations in that it also employs organic architecture but if you pay attention you will see that the walls actually have ears. At one end you will find parts of the human face carved here and there. Watch out for a huge ear and half a face.  The rest of the station has a lot of geometric sculptures which are apparently beyond my understanding.

 

Duvbo, Rissne, Rinkeby, Tensta and Hjulsta:

Duvbo has fossil like patterns on the walls in the form of carvings and frescoes. The reasons for the artwork is beyond me 😀 They do seem like archeological remains but are they real or were inspired from real remains found in the area, I am not sure. Or maybe its just art.

Rissne is a school history book spread out on the walls of this station giving the passer-by a quick review of human history through the ages. By Madeleine Dranger and Rolf H. Reimers the art is aimed to depict the progress of the human race over time. If you look closely you can see that it’s a timeline, with names of famous people throughout history. Swedes definitely found a way to honour the giants in history.

You will see a big spoked metal globe at Rinkeby, which is probably a presentation of the sun. Against rust red walls are gold and silver mosaics, depicting the excavation discoveries from the Viking period.

Tensta is sort of adorable since it feels like walking into a pre-school play area. Designed by Helga Henschen, the central passage has sculpted penguins set in the walls with animals painted besides them. Through the rest of the station you will find pictures of animals, plants and quotations in Swedish.

Hjulsta is the last station on the T10. I don’t what the art is about. Its minimal but nice. If you walk down to one end of the platform, you will see three pictures set in golden frame. A family maybe?

 

Solna Centrum, Näckrosen, Hallonbergen, Kista, Husby and Akalla:

Solna centrum is the first station after T10 and T11 separate for their respective destinations. With deep red painted walls and several escalators going up into a red hole, it is considered to be the stairway to hell according to some people on the internet. You will appreciate artwork spanning over 3000 feet as red, green and black silhouettes of trees and houses painted by Anders Aberg and Karl Olov Bjork, which point towards dilemmas of Sweden in the 1970s, depopulation and destruction of the environment. You will see miniature models of Swedish houses in glass encasements.

Näckrosen is the Water Lily station and is painted in the form of a pond with water lilies in it by Lizzie Olsson-Arle in 1975. You will see different sizes of pebbles embedded in the wall and quote written on the platform floor in Swedish. While you are there, take a walk around the platform and you see large glass covered pieces, one of which shows several signatures and pebbles with smiley faces painted on them.

Hallonbergen is all about art by children and immediately cheers you up. I wonder how they got children to paint it though at varying heights.

The only thing I remember about Kista is blue. It’s the bluest station ever with a large Clas Ohlson sign, also blue. It might calm you done, I wonder if it would also make you feel blue.

Husby is an unsculpted series of grey caves. For me, it is the yellow station with yellow walls all around.

Akalla is also very yellow station with ceramic pictures of people done by Birgit Stahl-Nyberg showing people enjoying activities of life, work and leisure.

 

So these were all the stations along the blue line. I particularly like Kungsträgården, Rådhuset, Fridemsplan and T-centralen for combining historical background into modern art. Take some time out and take a tour of the underground metro stations, I am sure you will have fun.

 

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