B12_#128 // Rehearsing Realities // Kirsty McMullan (Brief Author)
The commute to and from work, for many of us, is the only time in our day when we have a little time to think. To check in on our goals and aspirations as we check our oyster card balances. But the moment we enter a London train station, our eyes are bombarded by advertisements telling us what our goals should be, and how buying their products will complete us. In the carriages, along the escalators, even on the barrier doors.
So how could the space of the commute become a place of contemplation, of reflection on the things that really matter to us? In Rome’s San Giovanni metro station, ancient artefacts found during the station’s excavation are displayed in cases along the station’s subway tunnels. The commuters are taken
on a journey from the Middle Ages to the Western Roman Empire in the space of a few hundred meters. This new “museum-metro” typology creates a dialogue between the people of the city’s past and present, whilst questioning its future – all before their morning espresso. Whether what’s on your mind is the direction of civilisation or what to have for dinner, this environment is far friendlier to deep thought than the London Underground.
As the TFL’s ticket booths slowly close in favour of machines, we could find ourselves with an excess of unused booths, perfect for miniature exhibitions. Why not use these for something ultimately more engaging than advertising? Perhaps each station could invite its regular commuters to fill a window each month. These booths then could become tiny windows into the desires and fears of someone who could have tapped in just in front of you. The sterile, aggressive world of the commute can then be softened by an intensely human experience, a miniature journey of voyeurism that is more therapeutic than buying things, and more real than Instagram.
Kirsty McMullan is an MArch Graduate from the Bartlett School of Architecture