Cities speak, cities tell stories. Cities embody a mosaic of human experiences. Cities are landscapes where narratives travel waiting to be told, waiting to be heard. Cities can be ruthless, can isolate, marginalize, imperialize; cities can also foster creativity, cosmopolitan bonding, free-expression, self-realization. Cities witness an incessant flow of passengers who travel to the city, through the city, from the city. The semiotics of the city is intricate and city dwellers construct and reconstruct meaning within the realm of challenges and opportunities posed by urban landscapes. How do we develop an understanding of a particular city?
The metro offers cultural passengers a space for listening, for observing, for blending in the new environment. There is certain universality in the layout of underground systems around the world, a common sense of directionality, a familiar code to read metro maps and navigate the system; the absence of natural light that gives the underground a consistent light; there are also codes of regulated behavior that might vary from culture to culture, and to which passengers adhere. All cultures have a sense of an underground, and the surface representation of culture is rooted in underground traditions, heritage, past and current conflicts. What we perceive in the surface of a society is not a complete representation of its culture, and therefore it is imperative to ‘go underground’ to gain a better understanding of the city.