A few years ago, Montreal’s public transportation agency, the STM, announced an ambitious plan. Its first two generations of metro cars, introduced in 1966 and 1976, were finally becoming de-commissioned, to be replaced by new, updated trains. The transport agency put out a call to artists, designers, architects and students to find new ways to reuse the discarded trains. A number of fascinating projects were unveiled, depicting the used cars as restaurants, elements in urban gardens, and even – with several cars strategically implanted into a larger structure – part of a planned residential complex downtown.
At their best, these projects spotlighted the strong emotional bond between the iconic cars and their users, as well as their beauty. As with Thomas McKean’s MetroCard art, form and function were re-invented and given new meaning.
The Montreal project was of a piece with other big-city ventures that combine recycled art and transportation infrastructure.
In New York City, Trash to Art is a subway station installation composed entirely of recycled materials. It’s an immersive display that takes commuters on a visual journey, showcasing the life cycle of everyday items from disposal to transformation. Like all art of its kind, it reminds the viewer of the impact of our environmental choices, and the importance of recycling.
In London, artists are promoting plans for an “Eco-Bus” project. The idea is to transform decommissioned buses into mobile art installations adorned with sculptures and murals made from salvaged materials. These eco-friendly buses would circulate in the city, picking up passengers – truly combining art and transportation like no other project.