For all of the beauty of downtown DC’s Metro stations, subway culture in DC has always felt a bit austere. The rare mural or artwork feel forced, intended not to offend rather than uplift or enliven stations. Street buskers aren’t plentiful either, though I’m not sure it would matter. When the Washington Post had world famous violinist Joshua Bell play during rush hour at the L’Enfant Plaza station, seven people stopped to listen. Only one recognized him. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a lineup. All of this seems to suggest that we treat our stations as through-puts rather than informal cultural venues, or momentary sites of entertainment. Yet their potential is immense.
Enter the musical stairs.
Artists in Stockholm, with funding from Volkswagon, installed piano stairs reminiscent of the large piano that Tom Hanks played in BIG. People seem to like it and the majority of commuters have switched from the escalator to the stairs. And while it doesn’t seem that anyone will be able to step out Chopin (perhaps a bit dangerous), they do seem to be having fun.