A subway station isn’t a place you would normally get a hot stone massage but, this summer, lucky commuters were offered spa treatments at 34th Street Herald Square. Performance group Improv Everywhere took advantage of the sweltering heat to set up a pop-up sauna on the platform, complete with towels, sauna benches, massage tables and a steam room.
The group, which describes itself as “a New York City-based prank collective that causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places”, chose to create the latter on NQR platform on 34th Street last week. Director Charlie Todd explained in a release:
When I lived in Queens, the NRQ 34th St platform was my mortal enemy, its sticky heat making those late nights waiting for the train seem even longer. To me it feels hotter than any other platform in the system. When this idea came about, I knew it was the perfect spot.
On July 19th, a group of twelve pranksters received some funny, and no doubt envious, looks as rode the Subway from nearby 28th Street station to 34th Street wearing fluffy white towels.
They set up the Subway Spa in the centre of the platform by changing the station signs from 34th Street Station to 34th Street Spa, adding rocks with buckets of water and ladles to platform benches and putting up posters in the style of MTA safety posters. Created by Agent Ilya Smelansky, these gave commuters instructions on how to use the human-powered steam room and enjoy the underground heat of the sauna.
As crowds of people stepped from train to the platform, they were amazed to see a group of towel-wearing sauna-goers chilling out on the benches. The group dished out glasses of mint and cucumber water to appreciative passers-by and offered to spritz those who wanted to cool down.
Some people really got into the spa spirit, getting hot stone massages in the middle of the platform and joining the sauna-goers on the bench. Many enjoyed the steam room which was a teak platform surrounded by four people with spray bottles of water, with one man going topless to cool down completely.
In the release, Todd describes a member of the public who saw the spa and immediately felt at home.
The guy wearing socks was NOT of our performers. We had a few robes at the welcome station in case anyone wanted to join in, but we figured no one actually would. Not only did this guy strip down and put on a robe, he sat there for a half hour! It looked like he was with family when he first arrived, but I guess he ditched them to enjoy our sauna.
Unsurprisingly, the performance received a lot of attention from delighted subway-riders who must have thought that their dreams had come true when they found a luxury spa on the scorching platform.
The pop-up spa lasted for about an hour and, as the photos show, it definitely achieved its mission of creating a joyful scene in a public place. It illustrates how a humorous performance can bring people together and can perform the miracle of making a hot Subway platform somewhere people want to spend time.