In the 160th anniversary of the London Underground, a new book looks at something that came later — the modernist era of Holden and Pick that created the Underground we recognise today.
With words by historian Joshua Abbott and photographs by Philip Butler, this is a look at stations which can be for regular users so familiar as to be mere background noise on the commute, but for new visitors, they can be marvels of design.
The book reminds us of the delights to be found, not just at the stations famous amongst design fans, but the many that are sometimes unfairly seen as copy/paste jobs from other station builds.
The famous duo of Holden the architect and Pick the client at London Transport did more than just design stations, they can arguably be said to have created London itself. Before the tube, London was more of a cluster of towns and villages around the City of London, but after the various different transport services were given a unified identity as part of London’s Transport, every part of London had outposts of a single brand identity, knitting the villages into London proper.
When the tube lines were extended in the period covered by the book, semi-urban townscapes leapt into the future with the arrival of Holden’s modernist marvels with their clean unfussy lines and expansive windows bringing light into the stations and glowing warmly at night.
This latest book to look at the “golden age” of the London Underground is a guide to the stations built at this time, with commentary about the design choices and constraints imposed on them, alongside a mix of archive and fresh photos of the station buildings.
There are a few diversions into substations and the lines, but it’s very much the architecture that welcomes people in the mornings on their commutes to work or heralds a trip to somewhere fun at the weekends.
Rail fans who want more facts may find the books a bit light on details, but as a hymn to design, it’s a pretty good book and very moorish as you keep turning page after page.