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Photos: Kevin C Downs/For New York Daily News

MTA Enhanced Station Initiative

LOCATION: New York City, New York, U.S.

CLIENT: New York City Transit, The MTA

TEAM: Grimshaw, Arup, Page Ayres Cowley Architects

New York’s century-old subway lines transport millions of residents and visitors between 472 stations, across all five boroughs daily. To improve user experience, 33 subway stations were slated to be renovated in 2015-2019.

Led by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCT), the ESI Program was a major investment in MTA infrastructure. Arup was ESI’s Program Facilitator tasked to develop the bridging and bid documents, oversee the architectural and engineering design, scheduling, cost, construction packaging, and procurement of all program work


MTA desired to counteract the dim, worn-out atmosphere of the stations. Leni Schwendinger was involved in the initial envisioning process with Grimshaw Architects. She then led the Arup lighting design group, while working closely with Arup’s infrastructure department and wider design team. Efforts for historic station lighting were completed with Page Ayres Cowley Architects.

The Arup lighting team scope ranged from extremely specialized technical requirements to illumination of creative architectural and wayfinding additions for the newly envisioned stations.


The design consisted of conversion to LED, redesign, and reconsideration of illumination systems. It focused on perceptually "raising the roof" of the compressed underground experience with uplights into the rounded ceiling vaults. The design team focused on an atmosphere of crisp passageways and to complement physical attributes

such as new finishes, public art, glass balustrades, and other upgrades.


A prominent station will be the site of a major light-art installation throughout the mezzanine area. Schwendinger led the effort to create a canvas for the winning artist.

After the bridging document phase, the lighting group joined design-build teams to ensure that the lighting concepts were adhered to.


MTA’s design-build efforts are focused on refreshed identity, visual comfort, and better wayfinding, among other amenities, to enhance New Yorkers' everyday lives.

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