International : Mosaic Underground


The Underground is much more than an important transport system. It is a brand image. It is a hallmark of a city. It fills the inhabitants with pride, and it is a marvel for tourists. Local authorities are aware of these facts and spare no efforts on improving the appearance of their stations, as they are a showroom for travellers and make up the city's personality.

Paris, Moscow or Tokyo are some of the international metropolis looking after the aesthetics of their underground systems. But above all of them we have London and New York with their bet on glass mosaic. The leading companies of this innovative field -Bisazza, Onix and Sicis- have provided a boost to the use of recycled glass mosaic, which has been in continuous growth and extended its penetration ratio into new areas of construction, such as public spaces.

The best example can be found in New York. In 1985, the MTA Arts for Transit was created, aiming to help the Subway system become an attractive public space, apart from a fast and reliable means of transport. In order to achieve this, each station acquired a particular style through the creativity of different worldwide renowned and unknown local decorators and artists.

The outcome of this democratic design, in connection with the open and cosmopolitan style of the city, are around 140 works of public art along its labyrinth of more than 722 miles. With an average of five million travellers per day, we can say that New York's Subway is one of the largest and most visited museums in the world.

The only condition imposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is that the design of the works decorating the underground system includes long-life and easy-to-maintain materials, as they shall be exhibited in a place prone to continuous deterioration due to the infinite passage of travellers.

As a result, the walls and floors of the stations and tunnels have been covered with recycled glass mosaic in replacement of the memorable ceramic tiles, as the former last longer, are more resistant and respect the environment during the manufacturing process. Moreover, the tile creators still have countless possibilities and their only limit is their imagination.

The differential elements on the creations provided by companies such as Bisazza or Onix are highly rated when designing projects. Glass mosaic has gone beyond its limits and now covers much more than bathrooms and swimming pools. Its high-resistance, together with its versatility and beauty, make it an extremely useful material for the construction of public spaces.

Glass mosaic, as the one used in the Underground systems, combines functionality and distinction, as both features create a perfect combination exploited by cities such as the The Big Apple and others from all over the world, with different cultures, but that share the use of recycled glass mosaic in public spaces due to the strategic importance of the underground.

Tokyo, Moscow and Paris are some of the best examples on how big cities care for the aesthetics of their underground systems. Nevertheless, London and New York are still at the top. Both have placed important bets on glass mosaic for improving the beauty of their underground stations.

Times Square Subway station in Manhattan, New York, offers travellers some extraordinary works of art along the underground corridors of the huge building. The Revelers is a wonderful mosaic made by artist Jane Dickson, where travellers can enjoy up to 75 actual-size-figures of characters of all ages and origins celebrating the New Year.

The location was strategically chosen, as it is just under the place where the New Years' Eve Ball falls indicating the end of a year and the beginning of a new one in the United States. The luminescent glass pieces, combined with silver and gold, make up the multicoloured hats and the enjoyable party blowers on the figures that kiss, jump and dance celebrating the New Year's Eve.

The Eastern direction of the Tube's Central Line in London leads visitors to the Leytonstone district, where one of the best cinema directors of all times was born, Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, at 517 High Road. To mark the centenary of the birth of this suspense genius, the corridors of the Leytonstone Tube Station were decorated by 17 mosaics comprising 80,000 glass tiles, after seven months of hard work. These mosaics represent the most significant scenes of Hitchcock's filmography, such as Rebecca, Psycho, The Wrong Man, Rear Window, The Skin Game or To Catch a Thief, thus creating a perfect symbiosis between the seventh art and glass mosaic, right at the core of the oldest underground system.

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