August 3, 2022

Mong Kok is red, Admiralty is bright blue, and no one passes Choi Hung MTR station without seeing the rainbow-colored pillars on the platform. Why does each MTR station in Hong Kong have a different color, and what does it mean?

When you look at the colorful stations, you might think the brightly colored tiled walls of the Hong Kong mass transit rail system are just to reflect that this city of Bauhinia is full of color and energy. But apparently that’s not the only reason, there is a secret behind the choice of contrasting colors for each station.

First, different and chosen colors have to do with balance. Being deep underground, there are no windows, everything will look completely dark and gloomy. While color is associated with beauty and brightness, and in the depths of the MTR station, the color chosen is expected to give each station its own form of sunshine and beauty.

Second, station color has a function to help distinguish stations from one another, and to give each station its own identity.

The main reason bright colors were adopted when the first line of the MTR opened in the 1970s was that color differentiation was considered useful for designers to give identity to stations, because underground which of course, unlike when traveling by bus or car above ground, they unable to see surrounding landmarks.

Third, the colors of the stations are differentiated to make them easier to find and remember by illiterate people. Historically, in the 1970s, the illiteracy rate in Hong Kong was still high because it was only in 1971 that Hong Kong launched a free compulsory education program. So most Hong Kong residents still can’t read the Chinese alphabet and letters.

Fourth, color is useful for marking more important stations. The MTR intentionally uses a distinct and striking red range like at Tsuen Wan, Mong Kok or Central stations. This is so that passengers know that they are at the interchange station or the last station.

While developing the color palette, MTR has also made sure not to use the same color in subsequent stations. For example, blue is used at Mei Foo station because it contrasts sharply with the red stations of Lai King and Lai Chi Kok.

Fifth, so that the station is easily recognizable. If you are not a Hong Kong resident and can’t read English or Chinese well, how can you identify the station? Yup! By marking and recognizing station colors!

Some of the station colors are also selected to match the Chinese name the station uses. For example, the rainbow colors at Choi Hung station are a vivid example of a literal translation from Cantonese, as “choi hung” means rainbow. Yellow is used at Wong Tai Sin station because the word “wong” means yellow. Lai Chi Kok Station is red because “lai chi” means lychee fruit. Prince Edward Station is purple because the color is usually associated with royalty or nobility in western culture.

In addition to the five things above, the MTR architects creatively used various color determination methods to translate station names. For example Diamond Hill Station is mostly black, but a beautifully crafted mosaic using some white bricks. The purpose of the design is to try to produce the same sparkling effect as a diamond or diamond from a different angle.

The meaning of the place and the environment around the station is also considered in the use of color. For example, Whampoa Station is blue because it is closer to the water area. Ho Man Tin Station is green because it is part of the hills that have trees.

Given that each station has a different coloration, you may wonder why the Airport Express Line is grayed out. It all has to do with Norman Foster, the architect who designed the airport, and the HSBC building in Central who doesn’t like the use of color. The renowned architect often refers to “Foster gray” which is his favorite color and is used for most of his designs.

So the MTR architects decided to take advantage of a different coloration during the airport’s expansion from Lantau to Hong Kong. That’s why Airport Express, Kowloon and Hong Kong stations are the same gray, so that those who are or are about to travel feel that they are close to the airport.

In its development, the Airport Express Line became cooler in its grayness due to the introduction of the artwork. The architects integrated the art in the station by bringing together color and functionality.

Take, for example, artist Gaylord Chan’s rocket art in the space between Hong Kong and Central stations. The work is about the movement of people, and people passing quickly, reflecting the transit area where the station is where the art is located.

It is said that all the artwork at the MTR station is curated because it’s not just about choosing a good picture, but also making sure that the artwork that is posted can resonate with passers-by.

As for the newer stations, the MTR began to integrate art and color in a much more sophisticated and contemporary way.

For stations in Ocean Park, for example, a different color blue is used because it represents an amusement park. There is also an art sculpture that resembles the movement of a school of fish. There is two symbolism in this: symbolizing the sea, and the creatures in Ocean Park, but also functional, because by following the movements of the fish, people will be able to find an exit or station platform.

So what about Post Migrants? Have you ever thought that the MTR is more than just a mode of transportation but also a functional art exhibition space that has meaningful colors that are all integrated in a cool way?

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