At the metro station between 5th Avenue and 53rd Street in Manhattan, the closest to the MoMa, there is a new design installation that might surprise commuters and tourists alike. The walls next to the platform of the E and M train have now a new look which, has someone as already commented on social media about, looks like the one of the Milanese metro system. Why?
A design studio for the Milan metro system
Back in 1963 architect and designer Franco Albini asked to his friend and colleague Bob Noorda to work together for the realization of the entire communication plan for the almost finished Milan Metro Line. At that time the only one under construction was the now known as Linea Rossa ( the Red Line). Red was in fact the color chosen by the architect duo to define the graphics and the decorative elements of the stations. They also had the idea to repeat the name of the station along the walls of the entire platform of each station so that it was immediately recognizable by travellers regardless of where they were seated on the trains.
New York’s calling
A few years later in 1966 the much older New York’s metro management company decided for a graphic revamp of each station of the network. The current one was too cahotic and not that much representative of the complexity of the what was then called “The labyrinth”. The job was assigned to the design firm Unimark International and its head designer Massimo Vignelli, born in Milan in 1931, brought onboard the head designer of the Milan branch of Unimark, Mr Bob Noorda. Vignelli worked on the map of the network while Noorda took mostly care of the signage and wayfinding as he did for the Milanese underground services. The result was a magnificent example of minimalism. The only elements featured on the map are geometrical. Color, point, lines are the essence of the work by Giannelli who will finish his masterpiece in 1972.
Where’s Central Park?
Once the MTA started t use the new maps the New Yorkers did not seem to be enthusiastic of the result. Minimal is one thing, but too minimal is kind of too much. This what the main concern was about. They could not find on the map the points of interest, the names of the streets, the main attractions,… So in 1979 the new map, after a series of adjustments, was definitely dropped and replaced with a new one, clearer for the lazy eyes of the New Yorkers.
Half a century later the MoMa celebrates the iconic design by Giannelly and Unimark with an installation at the metro station between 5th Avenue and 53rd Street in Manhattan. The exhibit describes and tells the whole story about the NYC subway map and how it became an artwork celebrated worldwide.
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Can you imagine the New York City subways without the brightly-colored map that makes sense of the system’s many tangled train lines? @mtaartsdesign and MoMA unveiled today “The Subway: Design for a Modern Icon” at the 5 Av/53 St Station on the E/M line (our stop!). The new site-specific exhibition, curated by MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design and designed by @momadesignstudio, celebrates the historic connection between the Museum and @mtanyctransit. Vinyl panels along the downtown platform highlight the subway system’s graphic identity, created by Unimark International and headed by designers #MassimoVignelli and #BobNoorda—at the recommendation of MoMA curator Mildred Constantine. In 2004, their original c. 1972 diagram, as well as the 1970 Graphics Standards Manual, which called for station signage to be rendered in a sans-serif typeface with a simple palette of bright colors and black and white, entered the #MoMACollection. Check out the exhibition on your next visit to MoMA! 📸: Patrick Cashin/MTA #NYCSubway #MTAArts