The great architecture critic Vincent Scully once wrote about the then-newly rebuilt Penn Station: “One [previously] entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”
Indeed, it’s hard not to think of Scully’s classic burn when arriving at any number of the city’s 400-plus subway stations: the fetid 4/5 platform at 59th Street, say, or the dank, leaky, rat-infested lair at168th Street.
But not all subway stations are created equal. Some are actually … really nice! And, withbeautification projects ranging from thenew murals at the191st Street Tunnelto LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy’s attempt to turn the MTA’s turnstiles into music-making machines, it’s clear that not every subway commute has to inspire dread. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite stops, from the Natural History Museum’s iconic subterranean mosaics toaBronx station that looks like an Italian villa.
The bronze, granite, ceramic and glass mosaics in this station depict the evolution of life from the Big Bang to the present day. The sparkling under-the-sea tableau is particularly dazzling.
The newly opened, futuristic-looking terminal boasts a glass-and-steel oculus, a spiral staircase that snakes around a tubular glass elevator and lots of shiny, bright surfaces. Also: sunshine!
East 180th Street (2, 5)
A subway station that looks like a terra cotta Italian villa way out in the Bronx? Believe it.
Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue (D, F, N, Q)
The elevated platform allows commuters views of the ocean and amusement park, while the station itself includes artful glass-brick walls with silkscreened Coney Island icons, like a Nathan’s hotdog and a girl riding a carousel horse.
Mosholu Parkway (4)
The Bronx is full of stations adorned with gorgeous stained glass windows, commissioned by different artists. Impossible to choose just one, but Mosholu Parkway’s abstract, colorful murals — by Corinne Grondahl — are a good place to start.
Bedford Park Boulevard (B, D)
OK, we have a thing for nature mosaics (see the Natural History Museum stop above). The theme at this station is “community garden,” with murals bursting with colorful flowers and insects. (Also recommended: the wildlife murals at the newly renovated Jay Street Metro Tech Station in Brooklyn.)
BONUS: City Hall Station (closed)
This 1904 masterpiece, with its vaunted ceilings, colored glass tilework and brass chandeliers, is no longer functional, but you can still basque in its glory. The Transit Museum offers tours of this vintage station, but commuters catch a glimpse of it by staying on the 6 after it terminates at the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall stop — as the train loops around the track it passes by the defunct station.