Billions of passengers ply the subways or underground rail networks around the world. While cities like London and New York boast some of the oldest networks and Hong Kong and Singapore are known for their efficiency, there are few reasons to pause and take notice. Munich, on the other hand, will make you stop in your tracks in wonderment. Since the mid 1980s, subway stations have been used for artistic expression. The result of collaboration between local government, architects and local and international artists is a collection of subterranean colour-scape art and design that border on the science fiction. Although there are 8 lines, the best of Munich's underground patterns, colours, textures, shapes and images are on the U1 and U2 lines. For the small cost of a rail ticket, you can access a vast underground public art gallery. To help you kick start your exploration of the city's buried architectural wonders, here are 8 popular stations.
Munich subway station Dülferstraße / Photo by FloSch of Wikimedia Commons
Dülferstrasse is located at the northern end of the U2 line. It is one of the earlier stations adorned with public art when it opened in 1993. Here you can enjoy the 1920s art deco look by architects Peter Lanz and Jürgen Rauch and local artist Ricarda Dietz. The symmetrical station features stained glass panels as sidewalls and central columns decorated in aqua glass panels.
Munich subway station Georg-Brauchle-Ring / Photo by FloSch of Wikimedia Commons
Located on the U1 line, this U-Bahn station is the first in a new generation of artist-designed stations. Opened in 2003, this vast space with no columns feels more like a giant concert hall with pop-art coloured walls. Artist Franz Ackermann installed his concept entitled 'The Great Journey' which transformed the 7.5 metre station walls into a large patchwork with 400 metallic colour panels, paintings, maps, postcards and photographs of different places around the world, topped by a polished stainless steel ceiling.
Munich subway station Oberwiesenfeld / Photo by Florian Schütz of Wikimedia Commons
Located at the northern end of the Olympic Park on the U3 line, Oberwiesenfeld opened in 2007. The area above used to be a large industrial site with an airfield and military barracks. Underground, artist Rudolf Herz create a masterpiece of contrasting visuals in an elongated space without columns. Entitled "Ornament", his white and black panels on the wall manipulate your perception as you move through the space, in stark contrast with the continuing orange theme on the opposite wall.
Munich subway station Candidplatz / Photo by Martin Falbisoner of Wikimedia Commons
Named after 16th century artist and sculptor Peter Candid, this station on the southern section of the U1 line was opened in 1997. Its geometric shape is defined by a hat-shaped ceiling, curved lines and imposing columns. The harshness of the underground construction was soften by natural colour tones. Artist Sabine Koschier encased the central columns with stained glass to match the walls, which were covered by a colour specturm.
Munich subway station Olympia-Einkaufszentrum / Photo by Florian Schütz of Wikimedia Commons
Olympia-Einkaufszentrum (OEZ) is the terminus of the U1 and U3 lines of the Munich U-Bahn system. The U3 extension opened in 2007 is an avant-garde space that blends bold colours, shapes and textures. The tiny stainless steel pyramid covered walls are topped by blue coloured upper walls with yellow ellipsoid shaped light casings create a pop-art platform.
Munich subway station Am Hart / Photo by Florian Schütz of Wikimedia Commons
Located opposite the BMW research and technology centre and museum on the U2 line is the Am Hart U-Bahn. Opened in 1993, architecture firm Hilmer and Sattler and lighting expert Werner Lampl created a distinct space with a simple design and colour palette of white, blue and red. A channel of lights follow the line of central pillars, and walls covered with blue glass tiles divided by a red band is capped by wing-like curved aluminum panels.
Photo courtesy of Andreas Krappweis - firstname.lastname@example.org
Situation in the north-western end of the U2 line is the Hasenbergl U-Bahn. Opened in 1996, the futuristic design by Kramer Lighting and architecture firm Braun, Hesselberger Partner reflected the city's desire to transform this low income borough. You feel like you're in the docking bay of space station watching a illuminated spaceship land. The walls are basked in blue light with a white granite floor with black patterns for a landing strip. Suspended above is a tear-drop like shaped sail with reflective surfaces and ringed by florescent light.
U-Bahn-Station Westfriedof / Photo by Guido Wörlein of Wikimedia Commons
This is the local's favourite station. Named after the famous 1898 western cemetery of the same name located nearby, this station is on the northern section of the U1 line. Opened in 1998, this U-Bahn station felt like an underground cave with its bare stone and rock walls. A unique lighting concept was introduced by Ingo Maurer in 2001 which transformed the space. Imagine 11 large lamps measuring 3.80 metres in diameter bathing the station in blue, red and yellow light.