Going underground

I spend so much time in London these days I’m starting to feel like a local. And like a true Londoner I spend my fair share of time cursing crowded platforms and delayed trains on the London Underground… and yet, I can’t help but marvel at the Tube too, however frustrating it can be. So I enjoyed this tribute in the Guardian this week:

Whereas Britain’s above-ground railways were built by men who wanted to make money, the underground was conceived by an altruist: the lawyer and social reformer Charles Pearson, who envisaged a railway that would allow the working classes inhabiting the rookeries of Farringdon and Clerkenwell to live in the pretty villages west of Paddington.

The line – the Metropolitan – was built when Pearson teamed up with men who wanted to make money, but the underground has always been “the people’s” railway. Consider Leslie Green, architect of many of the Edwardian tube stations. He gave each a different, and beautiful, tiling scheme so illiterate Londoners would recognise their home stations.

In the interwar period, Frank Pick, number two in the underground chain of command, applied a design philosophy stemming from the Arts and Crafts movement – which married functionality and aesthetics – for the benefit of the travelling millions. So Londoners were spoilt rotten with the elegant Johnston typeface, the geometric suburban stations of Charles Holden, the brilliant conceptualisation of Harry Beck’s underground map – all commissioned by Pick.

Read Andrew Martin’s article in full here.

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Going underground