© Rob Greig
Nestled beneath the Houses of Parliament is this award-winning tube station, a futuristic mass of twisting grey steel and concrete. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the Death Star; those passing through might expect to see Darth Gove in a black cape, flanked by stormtroopers.
Most commuters don’t take the time to appreciate the architecture of London’s tube stations. But when they do, it’s probably because they’re in one of Charles Holden’s beautiful art deco stations, of which Southgate is a prime example. Its distinctive 1930s circular exterior and quirky tesla coil style ‘spire’ make it feel as if you’re taking the tube to the past.
One of London’s most famous underground stops isn’t one that most of us get a chance to see. Aldwych was closed in 1994 because not enough people used it, but it found a new lease of life in retirement as a location for film and TV shoots. You’ll have seen its withered old face in everything from ‘V for Vendetta’ to ‘Sherlock’.
4. Baker Street
This station’s oldest platforms are gloriously arched, brick-lined affairs. You can imagine a steam train trundling into view ready to blow your bowler off. Sure, after waiting 20 minutes for a Circle line train the novelty of atmospheric lighting and brickwork wears off, but it’s great while it lasts.
5. Tottenham Court Road
At first sight this station might seem to be a mess of strip-lights, scaffolding and buskers playing reggae versions of ‘Lady in Red’. But there’s something beautiful behind the chaos: the mosaics of British pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi. His colourful designs are a brilliant distraction from all the German teenagers doing their best to burst your eardrums.
If you don’t find the name Cockfosters hilarious every time you take the Piccadilly line then you’ve lived here too long. But there’s more to this station than a phallic name – it’s another of Charles Holden’s beautiful art deco designs. The original clock, signage and angular columns are the stars here. And there’s not a cock or a can of Foster’s in sight.
Think of the tube and you think of subterranean tunnels filled with soot. But hop on the Metropolitan line and go to its very outer limits and you’ll encounter something altogether more pleasant: the countryside! Arriving at Chesham station you’ll be greeted by a pretty signal box with hanging baskets. Plus there are trees, grass and strangers who say ‘good morning’ – it’s incredible!
8. Gloucester Road
Some of the platforms here date back to 1868. But the real attraction is the abandoned platform that is home to four art displays a year as part of TfL’s Art on the Underground. Nothing like contemplating the meaning of works by the likes of Sarah Morris and Trevor Paglen, while wishing you were home in bed instead of waiting for the bloody tube.
9. Canada Water
Emerging into the vaulted concrete concourse of this station is unlike any other tube experience. The escalators lead from the platform all the way to the surface in one giant, bright cone – heading to the ticket barrier is like ascending to heaven. Admittedly, once you get out it’s not like heaven at all, it’s Canada Water, but the ride is pretty special regardless.
We know what you’re thinking. ‘Bank? Are you kidding me? That place is hell on earth!’ But do you really think TfL could design a station this hellishly labyrinthine by accident? Our theory is that it is in fact a huge social experiment to see how far they can push commuters. If you look at it in those terms, it’s bloody genius.
By Eddy Frankel
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