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An Artist’s Serious Devotion to the Subway

In One Track Mind: Drawing the New York Subway, Philip Ashforth Coppola chronicles the mosaics, ceilings, staircases, and plaques of New York City’s subway stations.
Philip Ashforth Coppola's drawing of the subway station at 181st St.
Philip Ashforth Coppola's drawing of the subway station at 181st St. Princeton Architectural Press

When Phillip Ashforth Coppola first started his detailed renderings of New York City subway stations, MTA officials dismissed him as a “foamer” (the derisive term for fans who “foamed at the mouth” with their transit-oriented enthusiasm).

But Coppola is no ordinary fan. He is an artist and an archivist, and for nearly four decades he has carefully sketched the mosaics, ceilings, staircases, and plaques of New York City’s subway stations. In a new book, One Track Mind: Drawing the New York City Subway (Princeton Architectural Press), Ezra Bookstein and Jeremy Workman have compiled Coppola’s drawings and added notes to give viewers a detailed look at transit gems that often overlooked. Some of stations lovingly re-created on the page no longer exist, lost to time or refurbishment: the City Hall subway station, with its glass skylights and viridian tiles, can now only been seen via special tours or Coppola’s loving re-creation on the page.