Sensing the Moscow Metro

Two students at the Strelka Institute, an design school in Moscow, took on scraping together personal data that could be found on the Moscow metro, extracting, like you do with raw data, proxies for meaningful relationships.

Their observation that people check in at their home metro stations most is interesting. The exciting part is that they built a device to measure stimuli and bodily response. This chart correlates a ride on the Sokolnicheskaya Line, also known as the “red line,” and set to 11 when it comes to Stalinist Architecture. Look at the chart:

It’s not really a new idea, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it applied to a subway system. The designers of the Washington Metro put a lot of thought into the sensory cues for riders, from the comfort levels in the cars, to the blinking lights that indicate a sudden blur of light and a darkening of the station.

They have some other ideas, which you can see in their presentation:

You can take a look at their arduino-based specifications here. Madeline Schwartzman’s book See Yourself Sensing is also worth a look.


Double-O Tunnel Boring Machines

I stumbled on this totally cool innovation in tunnel design: the Double-O Tunnel Boring machine.


Apparently it uses two cutting heads, interlocked like gears, to bore double-barreled tunnels over a narrower area and ostensibly with less waste. The tunnel takes the form of union Venn diagram, with a line of columns in the middle.

For tunnels, it’s not an unusual configuration. Tunnels are round because it distributes weight forces efficiently and because a rotating cutter head involves the fewest moving parts. But, this also often leaves space that’s hard to use, since most vehicles are rectangular in section. Intersecting the circles creates flat sides and reduces waste.

The Lexington Avenue line tunnels on the Harlem River are built this way. The deep-column stations of the former Soviet Union are constructed by tunneling out a larger chamber between two tunnels. See Mayakovskaya, for example.

But as far as I know, TBMs like this are rare. A technical paper I found explains some of the difficulties, but there are TBMs with 40- and 60-foot diameters, such as Bertha, used to tunnel the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, or what Tysons Tunnel proposed.

I have no idea about the feasibility or actual value. I’d love to find out more.