Ad-free art on the underground: Düsseldorf’s ‘pure’ new metro line

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Ad-free art on the underground: Düsseldorf's 'pure' new metro line
The U-Bahn station Heinrich-Heine-Allee on the Wehrhahn line features three visual and sculptural sound corridors by artist Ralf Brög / © Joerg Hempel
Ad-free art on the underground: Düsseldorf's 'pure' new metro line
The U-Bahn station Heinrich-Heine-Allee on the Wehrhahn line features three visual and sculptural sound corridors by artist Ralf Brög / © Joerg Hempel

Geometric shapes, projections of planets, LED walls … Germany’s first art on the underground project is an ambitious collaboration between artists, engineers and architects

“It was an unusual project,” says Berlin-based artist Heike Klussmann, a lead designer of the new U-Bahn line, which opens on Saturday in the German city of Düsseldorf. Fifteen years in the making, the Wehrhahn metro line consists of six new stations running east to west beneath the city centre, collaboratively designed by architects, artists and engineers. “Normally the construction part happens first and then the artists are commissioned. Here the architects, artists and engineers worked together from the beginning,” she says.

It started back in 2001 when a joint proposal by Klussmann and Darmstadt-based architecture practice Netzwerkarchitekten won an EU-wide, two-stage competition to design the stations. They commissioned five artists to develop concepts and, €843m (£657m) and two miles of tunnel boring and excavation later, the results are surprising, outstanding and ambitious.

There have been other art on the underground projects but two factors make this one stand out: the total lack of advertising throughout, and the cohesive vision of a common architectural language.

In every station is the “continuum”, an etched concrete skin on all or part of the concourse walls with geometric shapes that expand and contract to create the illusion of three-dimensionality and movement, Klussmann explains. The idea was that there should be two layers to the project: “One layer that connects the stations to one another and another layer that responds to the urban context above ground,” adds Markus Schwieger of Netzwerkarchitekten, who was part of the main coordinating team. […]

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