Stockholm Reinvents Underground Travel with Ethereal Art Displays

Stadion Station, Stockholm. Image courtesy of David Williams and Flickr:

Underground travel in London can be exhausting, overcrowded and frantic with the end goal of most travellers being no more than to reach their desired destination. Conversely, in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, you might postpone the rush and for the first time consider lingering on your journey through the stations. Vivid art installations have been created in each of the 100 stations on the network with the aim of improving the overall experience of travellers. We look at Stockholm’s most captivating and political installations of art of on the underground since the 1970s.

Feeling Blue

Setting the trend of art installations in Stockholm’s stations, was Per Olof Ultvedt’s art installation at T-Centralen station. The T-Centralen station first opened in 1975, following the completion of the “blue line” and is the only station where the underground’s “green line” and “red line” meet, which makes it one of the busiest underground stations.

T-Centralen station, Stockholm. Image courtesy of Ralf Kaiser and Flickr

Consequently, art guide Marie Anderson believes Per Olof Utvedt may have used blue to induce feelings of calmness in travellers and ultimately counteract the frantic, rushed energy within the station. She stated, “I think that his idea was that the blue colour together with the simple motifs – stylized flowers and leaf creepers – gives passengers pause and a chance to clear their mind.”

Indisputably, Utvedt’s floral motifs offer an escapism into nature away from Sweden’s bustling metropolis, if only for a moment. The extension of nature into the man-made tunnels of the T-Centralen station drives forth a sharp antithesis, that remind us both of nature’s necessity and hegemony over man-made installations.

It’s Festival Every Day at Stadion

Completed in 1906, Östermalms IP is a sports ground in Stockholm and alongside hosting different sports in the 1912 summer OIympics, it is the primary location for Stockholm Pride Festival.

Stadion Station, Stockholm. All rights reserved. Image courtesy of David Williams and Flickr

Correspondingly, the station located at a walking distance of five minutes from Östermalms IP, known as Stadion features rainbow streaks, set against a crystal blue background. The bright, jovial rainbow colours subvert the bleak, overbearing and cave-like structure of the station and therefore excite the festive spirit into travellers during each commute via the station, regardless of whether or not it is festival!

Red Skies at Solna Centrum

A torrent of red skies replaces clear blues skies in Solna Centrum station. In contrast to Stadion station and T-Centralen station’s emphasis on calming commuters, Solna Centrum prioritises the art of remembering. The graphic red skies are overtly political and resting above endless green landscapes, they allegorise the environmental troubles Sweden faced from the 1960s to the 1970s.

Solna Centrum, Stockholm subway station. All rights reserved. Image courtesy of Dmitry and Flickr

Mercury pollution caused by agriculture led to the foundation of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in 1967. Today, the diabolical red skies of Solna Centrum in Stockhom celebrate the efforts of smaller authorities in environmental divisions, for example the water and air quality sector, while concurrently highlighting the Swedish public’s prolonged battle to ban hazardous chemicals such as mercury. It was only on the 15thof January in 2009 that the Swedish government introduced a complete ban on mercury, and even then, exceptions were held for certain cases.

Wild Ride at Kungsträdgården

Colloquially referred to as “KungSan” and located right at the end of the blue line, Kungsträdgården is home to Stockholm’s oldest public park and is hence deserving of its name which translates to “The King’s Garden.” The station’s opening in 1977 had been preceded by widespread environmental protests with immense objections to the destruction of elm trees to make way for the station’s entrance. The conflict that later became known as the “Elm Conflict” or the “Battle of the Elms” led to people tying themselves to trees and public collisions with the police. As a result of the protests, the entrance was moved away from densely, elm tree packed area of the park, and established a breakthrough in the Swedish government complying with public demands.

Kungsträdgården metro station, Stockholm. Some rights reserved. Image Courtesy of Arild and Flickr

Furthermore, to satisfy public concerns further and refute concerns of visual pollution, the station emulated the ecosystem of the park and is now noted for its distinct flora and fauna. Following its opening in 1977 and environmental clashes, Kungsträdgården station is now the only place in northern Europe home to the species of spider known as the Lessertia dentichelis. Marie Anderson observes the colour scheme of station incorporating red, white and green is an allusion to the “old French formal garden” and the statues around the station are actually replicas of Makalös Palace’s exterior art.

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