TechFlesh Blog

Stockholm’s underground subway art


Running 110km underground in Stockholm’s Tunnelbana (subway) is the world’s longest art exhibition, with paintings, sculptures, mosaics and installations created by 150 artists since the 1950s in more than 90 of the city’s 100 stations. Arguably one of the most dramatic installations is the vibrantly colored abstract harlequin design that engulfs the Kungsträdgården Station along the Blå linjen (Blue line) in the centre of Stockholm. Painted by Ulrik Samuelson in 1977, with later additions made by the artist in 1987, this ceiling artwork can be found on the Arsenalsgatan exit side of the station. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Stockholm’s Baroque past

The green, red and white lines that run along the floors of Kungsträdgården Station were also painted by Ulrik Samuelson in 1977. The art harkens back to the history of Kungsträdgården (“The Kings’ Garden”), a park that belonged to King Charles XIII in the 17th Century. The green stripes symbolize its once beautiful green Baroque gardens, the red hue is for the gravel pathways and the white lines reflect the marble statues that once graced the grounds of the king’s Makalös Palace, which stood above the station’s current location. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Historic artifacts

Also at Kungsträdgården Station is a small archaeological dig of artifacts belonging to Sweden’s National Art Museums collective. The gas lamps that once lined Torsgatan Street and the 17th- and 18th-century remnants of marble columns and stone sculptures from Makalös Palace are on permanent display here. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Calming effect

According to Storstockholms Lokaltrafik, Stockholm’s traffic agency, approximately 167,000 people travel through T-Central Station each day, making it the busiest stop on the subway system. The blue vine motifs running along the walls on the Blue line section of the station were designed by Per Olof Ultvedt in 1975 to offer a few moments of soothing calm as passengers waited for and transferred to different trains. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Workers unite

Ultvedt also wanted to honor the welders, carpenters, steel workers, engineers and miners who toiled daily at T-Central station. Instead of inscribing their names on walls, which felt eerily similar to a memorial, he painted silhouettes in blue of the workers (in keeping with his other blue-themed motifs) over the walls and ceilings of the Blue line connection. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Background mosaics

With so much other activity at T-Central Station, commuters might not notice the pattern of multi-colored glass prism tiles running the length of its walls. Designed in 1958 by Erland Melanton and Bengt Edenfalk, this was one of the first art installations in the underground network, and is called “Klaravagnen” — referencing the old “Klara” neighborhood that was located above here in the 1950s. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Political statements

A fiery red sky and green spruce forest are spray painted along 1km of the walls at Solna Centrum Station on the Blue line. Created by artists Anders Åberg and Karl-Olov Björk in 1975 at the peak of Sweden’s industrial era, these illustrations reflect the 1970’s political issues of “rural depopulation and destruction of the environment”. The artists also depicted outdoor activities like fishing in clean streams and Nordic wildlife like moose, which were threatened by the industrial pollution at the time. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Throwback tiles

The 1950s teal-colored tile work and vintage signposts at Hötorget Station along the Gröna linjen (Green line) gave the station the moniker “bathroom station”. In addition to restoring the station’s architecture, artist Gun Gordillo added 103 strips of winding neon lights along the ceilings in 1998 to add more drama. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Olympic fever

Along the Röda linjen (Red line), Stadion Station is full of sculptures and signs designed in the bright rainbow colors of the Olympic rings. There is also a large rainbow painted on the marbled blue rock walls. They were designed by Enno Hallek and Åke Pallarp in 1973 to commemorate the 1912 Olympics, which took place at Stockholm Stadium (“Stadion”), after which the station is named. (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Sporting mirages

Six ingeniously painted aluminium sheets line the wall of Stadshagen Station on the Blue line. Painted by Lasse Lindqvist in 1975, these shape-shifting panels commemorate sporting events like the Swedish soccer team playing the Danes — if you look from the left you see the Swedish team, from the right, the Danish team. There are also sheets illustrating track and field meets (track from one direction, field from the other), and winter sports like skiing (cross-country skiing from the left and downhill skiing from the right). (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)