In NYC’s SoHo neighborhood, Subway Map Floating on a NYC Sidewalk by Francoise Schien is embedded into the sidewalk in front of 110 Greene St., between Spring and Prince Sts.
The project measures 90 feet long and 12 feet wide, with concrete rods in the sidewalk and LED lights embedded in the ceilings of the basements of adjacent buildings. It was installed in 1985, when SoHo was a vastly different neighborhood.
We Heart New York describes the installation perfectly as “a little piece of the mundane turned into abstract art and reinserted into the mundane.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
To Schien, a subway system is “the most democratic place into which engrave philosophical concepts to address to the people,” and this installation is the first in her “human rights in the subways” series. This cartographic representation of Manhattan ignores the outer boroughs and is so reductive that I have a hard time seeing this democratic component.
On the other hand, I see it as an abstracted homage to Massimo Vignelli and his 1970 subway map, which was really more of a diagram [it’s in the MoMA permanent collection and you should check out Vignelli’s blunt commentary on his and other versions of this ubiquitous tool].
Francoise Schien is a Belgian architect, planner and public artist who studied in Brussels and NYC and has worked on place-centric projects all over the world.