• Bricks & Words #5: ‘Underground Architecture’

    Easily the best book available on the rich architectural heritage of the tube, this invaluable work takes a chronological canter through the entire history of the 250+ stations that make up today’s network, from their origins in 1863 to the Jubilee Line Extension programme of the early 2000s. Beautifully illustrated with historical and contemporary images largely from the archives of TfL (as it now is), the test is readable but knowledgable.

    Importantly, the fact that each of the lines was initially built as a separate, private venture and so had its own individual architect is made clear. This accounts for the wide diversity of styles seen even in stations built at the same time, such as the ‘oxblood red’ tiling of Leslie Green and the pure Portland stone of Charles Holden. The countryside aesthetic of far-off rural halts is contrasted with the powerful urban and suburban identity forged by Holden when working with tube chairman Frank Pick at the time of unification, and early works lost in subsequent rebuilds as well as trial schemes that didn’t always work as planned are well covered. Neatly, text on a given subject generally ends as on the page, dividing the book even within chapters but not seeming to be forced. Integrated art and new technology is also touched upon, where this affects the architecture. Required reading for the Londoner.

    ‘Underground architecture’ by David Lawrence (Capital Transport Publishing, 1994)

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Chris Rogers writer on architecture and visual culture

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