If you have been to Delhi, you might have seen and most likely been a part of the swarms of cars presumably lined up on roads as wide as Olympic swimming pools and as narrow as cows. This scene a charade of red and horns, drowning the metallic ombre of the cars, more alarming than the sirens of an ambulance (which you probably can hear distantly, always), moving at the sticky pace that makes you want to quit that job or regret that decision that got you out.

Enter: the Delhi Metro. Since its inauguration in 2002, it has become a part of the Delhiites lifestyle quicker than imagined. This almost-200km long network connected the farthest ends of the city into a loop, promising accessibility and allowing opportunities that once seemed too distant to pursue, within an economic range of budget. While that dampened the aggressiveness on the road to a fair amount, the ‘jam’ continues to employ its force. Unarmed by accelerators and horns to exert dominance, people are swept into the concrete infrastructure by mass direction and resort to body weight to push through the 10-second window between journey and destination. Lacs of humans fade in and out of vision through the tunnels and skywalks of the metro infrastructure, like pixels of a large-scale dynamic portrait, pausing only at food pop-ups scattered inside the stations for a quick respite. If the Human race had a face, this most likely would be it (at least the Indian counterpart of it).

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Delhi MetroWhile the Metro is known for movement and madness, a contrasting likelihood unfolds- The halt. Old friends waiting to meet up at a decided Metro Station and treading the journey thereafter, colleagues lingering on after work before dispersing into opposing directions, groups form picnics on the staircases leading out, senior citizens taking the support of the gigantic columns between long stretches of walking; there are several scenarios, some even concerning. Nodal interventions of such a transit system, like most, also invites street vendors within its immediate context. This added with the availability of ‘rickshaw-wallas’ to engage in end-mile connectivity not only makes this particular mode of transit, a safe and economical but also assures the commuter to prolong this wait.

Such a trend ideally should encourage designers to recognize these behavioral tendencies and ideate to create solutions sensitive to a wide array of user groups and user activities, within the metro infrastructure. However, since Delhi Metro Rail Corporation discourages commuters halting in the vicinity of the infrastructure as it disrupts the flow of movement and can add to chaos in the surrounding urban fabric, one begins to question whether the provision of pause pods and public spaces within the infrastructure to suit the commuters would be the right move. DMRC discourages to wait for longer durations as it poses a security concern, which is why a time limit is imposed as to how long one can stay within metro grounds. While benches are provided at the station level to relieve commuters for a short duration, can we, as a community of creative thinkers, work out ways to induce softer architecture that is in a state of inertia, much like the commuters?

An impressive example would be the Moscow Metro network, which not only demonstrates its efficient transit system but also stands as an architectural tell-tale of the city’s rich history and culture. With high ceilings, classical moldings and elegant chandeliers in the older stations, reflective of the Soviet and Stalinist styles, and the high-vaulted glass ceilings in the newer stations, one could mistake the travel to an underground architectural as time-lapse. Provision of benches, in addition, jut out of its polished stone walls in long corridors to soften the movement and provide utility to the otherwise highly-decorative and functionally-mundane transit space.

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Avtovo Station, St. Petersburg; Source- earthporm.comThe Metro-politan World of Delhi - Sheet3

Elektrozavodskaya Station, Moscow; Source- railway-technology.comThe Metro-politan World of Delhi - Sheet4

Kievskaya Station, Moscow; Source- earthporm.com

Landscape over-ground plazas such as those introduced by Zaha Hadid Architects and A_lab in their proposal for the Fornebubanen Metro line in Oslo is an interesting perspective to encourage the distinction between the social and functional, creating enhanced zones for each through vegetation. The socio-cultural sphere is concentric to its functional core, acting as a permeable mid-zone between the static urban ground and its fluid transit corridors.

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Fornebuportenarena Station, Oslo; Source- Zaha Hadid ArchitectsThe Metro-politan World of Delhi - Sheet6

Fornebuporten Station, Oslo; Source- ArchdailyThe Metro-politan World - Sheet7

Fornebuportenarena Station, Oslo; Source- Zaha Hadid Architects

The metro network of Stockholm and Paris, to cite another example, are revered all around the world for featuring art in their underground stations. The refurbishment of these man-made caves echoes beyond a splash of paint- It humanizes and sensitizes these otherwise mechanical modes of movement, easing the mind into the depths of the ground. As simple an addition as it could get, such intervention not only serves to human comfort but also encourages tourists to opt for these public modes of transit.

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Odenplan Station, Stockholm- Source- Walkslowrunwild.com

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T-Centralen Station, Stockholm; Source- earthporm.com

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Metro Station, Paris; Source- earthporm 

The Metro Network, as it turns out, is not just a mode of transportation- It has become an actor in the urban play of movements and halts, with a potential to create vibrations in the socio-cultural environment of Delhi. An intermediate ground can, therefore, be envisioned between user needs and government policies to achieve an experience that can further add to the experience that Delhiites already pride themselves with, and which the Capital city can pocket within its fold.


Shivani Pinapotu is almost an architect. She started writing to make sense of architecture and in it, she found her joy. She believes that architecture is as much a creative process as it is an expression, a celebration, a million stories untold and she aspires to unfold them all through her words.