diamond geezer

 Saturday, October 09, 2010

You wait ages for an exhibition about the tube, and then two come along at once.

What? Underground Journeys
Who? Charles Holden's designs for London Transport
Where? The Victoria & Albert Museum
How? From the main entrance, turn right and head up the stairs to the top floor (room 128a)
When? 2 October 2010 - 13 February 2011
Why? Charles Holden is probably the greatest architect London Underground ever had. He had the good fortune to be around in the 1920s and 1930s when the network was expanding fast into the suburbs, and got the opportunity to show off his design skills at more than 50 stations all across London. They're the Modernist ones, with ticket halls that often look like brick boxes or cavernous drums. He cut his teeth on the run down from Clapham to Morden, then framed his masterpieces on the outer reaches of the Piccadilly line. Sudbury Town, Southgate, Arnos Grove - they're far mightier than any shiny glass edifice Crossrail might erect in the near future.
Whatever? It's less an exhibition hall, more a long corridor with display cases. But here you'll find a fine collection of ephemera relating to Holden's stint in charge of the Underground's design office. Photos, obviously, each duly labelled with informative background. A poster and a public information film celebrating the tube's rollout towards Cockfosters (which was supposed to have towers, but the money ran out). Some cutaway drawings of the elliptical ticket hall beneath Piccadilly Circus, revealing how its passageways linked down to the platforms (and to Swan and Edgar). Some little models, including a perfectly formed Balham and a miniature Rayners Lane. And lots of lovely original drawings and architect's plans, which don't get out of 55 Broadway very often. That was one of Holden's too, of course.
Whence? You've got four months to visit, and to grab one of the enlightening stapled/foldout exhibition guides.

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