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Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture & Design in the New York City Subway Hardcover – October 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Stewart, Tabori and Chang; First Printing edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158479349X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584793496
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 11 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unlikely as it may seem, the 100th anniversary of the New York City subway system was the impetus for a handsome book, Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture & Design in the New York City Subway. Produced by the New York Transit Museum, this abundantly illustrated design history traces the origins and development of subway cars and stations, including ceramic and metalwork detailing, ticket booths, signage, route maps and advertising. Treated in a merely dutiful way, this material would probably be of interest only to subway buffs. But Subway Style boasts high-quality photographs, an inviting design, and a succinct and wryly amusing text that relates subway developments to other cultural happenings and isn't too proud to explain specialized terms. It's the kind of book that makes the evolution of turnstiles sound fascinating. With a contractual mandate to instill "beauty" into "a great public work," the IRT--the first of three subway lines--originally featured elaborate Beaux Arts ceramic detailing displaying historical scenes or symbolizing local landmarks. Gracious bronze grilles served as ticket windows, and station names were painstakingly spelled out in glass mosaic tiles. Succeeding generations morphed these features into increasingly streamlined versions utilizing the latest technology and design trends. Wood station seats gave way to cast terrazzo perches cantilevered from the wall, then to molded fiberglass, polyurethane and finally back to wood. Usable maps were a long time in coming. In 1958, 18 years after the three lines were united, the Transit Authority finally published a single guide showing the entire system. Massimo Vignelli--whose bold, color-keyed station signage was a major innovation--later produced an abstract, all but useless map that was, as the book says, "emblematic of New York’s 1970s retreat from urban life." The chapter on subway ads is (naturally) the most fun, ranging from Amelia Opdyke "Oppy" Jones' expressive cartoon characters--caught in the act of dropping gum wrappers or propping their feet on the seats--to head shots of women hoping to be voted "Miss Subways." —Cathy Curtis

From Publishers Weekly

This fascinating, smartly executed volume should intrigue and entertain anyone with affection for New York City's "amazingly complex, largely uncelebrated environment," in the words of critic Giovannini. Given a legacy of three separate systems built during different decades and untidily unified in 1940, the 100-year-old subway's multitudinous elements today uneasily harmonize in "systematic uniqueness." Thematic chapters cover ceramic designs, fare collections, signage, advertising and more. Squire Vickers, an architect who served as chief architect of the system from 1906 to 1942, wanted to celebrate the subway's industrial character, yet at the same time used colored tiles to add cheer. A marvelous chapter traces the evolution of subway maps, including the 1972 example of minimalism that turned subway lines into 45- and 90-degree angles. Another surveys subway cars through the years, including rattan upholstery and the beginning of hard fiberglass polyester seats. There's much delight in the old: metal grillwork from the 1930s, the three-dimensional ceramic at Brooklyn's Borough Hall station. There are also stirring signs of the new: freshly commissioned tile mosaics in Chinatown; a restored 1904 station house at 72nd Street and its respectful but better-fed newly built cousin across Verdi Square; funky cast-bronze sculptures at 14th Street. The subway's grittier side is treated somewhat glancingly; a picture from 1970 shows the clutter that led to the ban on vending machines; the new turnstile's design is described as a deterrent to fare-beaters. But this book reminds us that the achievement of the subway, even today, is to function under pressure, above ground and below, with unexpected elements of artistry and grace.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Anthony W. Robins is a historian and writer who specializes in the architecture of New York City. He holds a Masters Degree in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and was the winner of a 1997 Rome Prize. During a 20-year long career at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, he served as Deputy Director of Research and Director of Survey. He has written for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Preservation, and Architectural Record, among many others. He also lectures nationally and internationally, and has led walking tours of New York for thousands of New Yorkers and visitors to the city. For more information: www.AnthonyWRobins.com

Customer Reviews

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The historical information is very interesting.
Yvonne Peace
I've always appreciated the unique style and details of the NYC subway system.
M. Ho
I haven't read the whole book just yet but I love it.
elecbubble

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on October 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
When I've gotten into the New York Subway, my first thoughts have been of dirt, noise (obnoxious music and squealing wheels), and where's the damn train. When I've looked at the elements that make up the structure I've seen steel beams with twenty-eleven layers of peeling paint. After reading this book, it will, hopefully, not be the same. The carefully selected photographs (showing a lot more cleanliness than uaual) point out the points of design that were incorporated into the original construction.

An official publication of the MTS's New York Transit Museum, this profusely illustrated book makes you look at the New York Subway in a different light. Here there is beauty and elegance sufficient to make you think of the subway as a work of art in its own right. Look carefully, the signs you're looking for to tell you where you want to go may be carefully done in mosaic tile or held up by a delicate iron casting.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert Schwandl on April 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
After having seen too many books narrating the history, especially the first years, of the NYC Subway, this book is quite a surprise. Stunning photographs, with interesting details!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Deason on October 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Finally a book that appreciates New York's iconic subway system..yeah London has the clean and modern "Tube" and Paris has it's efficient "Metro", but the most famous or infamous and most recognizable is the NYC "Subway". The images in this book are fantastic and the text kept me interested all the way to the last word. I really came away with an appreciation for the history of this great transportantion system and it's surprising beauty..who knew? Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bruce R. Gilson on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a beautiful catalog of the visuals associated with the New York City subway system. I have seen books with pictures of the cars, but no other book shows the stations, the history of the transit maps, subway advertisements, even the various designs of tokens that have been used. It's a great job and I'm happy to give it a 5-star rating!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Ho on February 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've always appreciated the unique style and details of the NYC subway system. And being a history affecionado as well, this book satisfied my curiosity. A nice blend of historical description, nice collection of photos. I think ultimately it's more on the photo side, but there are succinct captions for each of them.

This is not really a thorough history book but I would describe more as a jumping point should you decide it's something you want to know more about.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Got this for my sister who lived in NYC for years. We always wondered about the designs in the subway and this book is very informative.
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