An architect intrigued by our city's subway stations has taken it upon herself to create three-dimensional floorplans of them. Candy Chan explains on her website, Project Subway NYC, "I hope the drawings will make way-finding in this giant maze a little easier. On top of that, I hope this project as a whole will give you a new perspective, a new way of understanding, and perhaps a newfound sentiment, for this mystifying world under one of the most dynamic cities in the world."
As we all know, there can be many more subway entrances and exits than what is shown on the subway map. According to City Lab, Chan was inspired by the detailed station layouts Hong Kong's MTR system offers (PDF of Hong Kong Station) and wanted to do something similar for the MTA:
To create her station layout maps, Chan set out with a clipboard, pen, paper, and a camera. Her method was relatively rigorous—counting subway tiles and stairs to estimate distances; using Google and MTA neighborhood maps to determine block lengths; taking pictures and making sketches by hand, then cross-referencing the two. Chan even considered acquiring blueprints from the MTA but ultimately decided against it, sticking to her first-person, camera-based approach. As long as she could connect the dots between different sections of each station, she says, granular accuracy took a backseat to legibility.
Chan transferred her preliminary sketches to AutoCAD, printed out the linework, and took it back to the subway to verify the proportions. Then, using a combination of Photoshop, Illustrator, and Rhino, she rendered these drawings in 3D to produce intricate maps of each station’s innards.
Chan has only created five maps so far: 42nd Street, Times Square, 34th Street-Herald Square, the 23rd Street N/R, Union Square and Columbus Circle. Obviously the more complicated the station, the longer it takes her to design the layouts. She told us, "It ranges from about two days for a single line station like 23rd Street to two weeks for a crazy one like 42nd Street Times Square. I think I have gotten faster throughout the process though."
As for which station confounds her the most, it's 14th Street-Union Square: "Because on the west, Broadway suddenly turned into 'Union square west', and on the east, Park Avenue splits into 4th Ave and Broadway. Trains usually run directly underneath and parallel to the streets, but around there it's a little trickier. So it took me a while to figure out what's happening above ground versus what's under."
Asked if she was going to tackle more stations outside of Manhattan, Chan said, "I originally wanted to name the project 'All the Stations in New York'—so yes, the ambition is there. But I pick all the complex and interesting ones first. My friend recently told me the MTA actually publishes data on which stations get used most, and I think I will tackle those next. Also Manhattan is easier simply because I live and work here."
Now Chan has created a poll asking readers to vote on what station she should tackle next—and to suggest others.
In the meantime, you can buy copies of these layouts in three different layouts.