diamond geezer

 Friday, February 08, 2013

BAKERLOO: A fine line

If the Bakerloo line was a game of Monopoly, the stations inbetween Paddington and Queens Park would form a set of three. Each designed by architect Stanley Heaps. Each created in the style of his predecessor Leslie Green. Each very similar, within certain constrained parameters. And each in their own way rather lovely.

There's not much to see of Warwick Avenue (the station) above ground, although Warwick Avenue (the avenue) is massive. All that pokes above the surface is a tall utilitarian ventilation shaft, of the sort you might expect to see at a prisoner of war camp. The spire of St Saviour's Church dominates the scene, with a green cabmen's shelter and some Cycle Hire bikes thrown into the mix for good measure [photo]. Entrance is down some covered steps surrounded by green railings, because green is the highlight colour hereabouts. The columns and doors in the ticket hall are topped with a green and cream chequerboard pattern, though below a suspended ceiling that adds nothing to the atmosphere. The escalators were cutting edge when they were introduced 100 years ago, with this stretch of the Bakerloo line the first to be designed with escalators instead of lifts. Glide down to reach a central arched circulation space, again edged in green, at the end of which sits a veneered timber observation kiosk [photo]. It's topped by a period clock, and would have been the ideal spot for a member of station staff to sit and observe if only there wasn't a CCTV camera mounted to the wall behind doing the job for nothing. And the platforms, they're pleasant and bright, enlivened by stripes of jade green tiles. Nothing too outstanding, but it's hard to find much wrong at Warwick Avenue.

Maida Vale is essentially the same station as Warwick Avenue but with a much nicer entrance [photo]. This time there is a surface building, just one storey, because only stations with lift mechanisms need two storeys. It sits on a street corner behind a mini-roundabout, seamlessly integrated into the parade of shops alongside [photo]. The exterior is clad with deep red tiles, as were so many Leslie Green stations at the start of the 20th century. Each bay has a segmental arched 3-part window, mullioned and transomed, separated by pilaster strips with inset semi-circular pediments at arch level, and yes I am copying this. The original intention was for a grand main entrance, labelled Entrance, and a smaller side exit, labelled Exit. Both are still there but the latter is sealed off, so the segregated staircase beyond is no longer required [photo]. The entrance hall is narrow but deep, with two gorgeous mosaic UndergrounD roundels embedded high in the wall. All the roundels on the network used to look like that, filled in red, and these are some of the very few never to have been updated. Descend past more chequer tiling, down and back and round, to step onto another of those pioneering escalators. The lower hall is very similar to that at Warwick Avenue except there's no kiosk. A modern white Help Point has taken its place, but at least someone's mounted the clock on the rear wall above. Throw in some more cream and green tiled platforms, and this is a little jewel of a station, mostly unspoilt. [Listing details]

To complete the triumvirate, we cross from Westminster into Brent. Kilburn Park station's down a sidestreet from the High Road, in a commanding position on the corner with Alpha Place. Here there was room to build, rather than squish, so the station has a commanding six-bay frontage again in deep evocative red [photo]. A shame about the bright blue chemists now occupying the shop unit by the entrance, but presumably colour-matching isn't in the terms of their lease. I love the tiled frieze lettering that reads Kilburn Park along two sides of the building, plus another indication of separate Entrance and Exit. Again this exit's now closed, although I did spot a member of staff kindly pulling back the metal shutters to allow an elderly man to escape without having to walk all the way up through the ticket barriers and back. The ticket hall has more tiled chequerboarding, while the ticket windows boast "pedimented aediculed timber surrounds", whatever they are. Above the escalator is an oval light well, adding a bit of class to an otherwise dull white curved roof [photo]. And you arrive into a central hallway extremely similar to that at the previous two stations, providing a fine touch of architectural cohesiveness. Yes, there is a kiosk, and yes there is a clock on top, but here the interior's been entirely taken over by a screen transmitting CCTV pictures. Once space for a human, now an electronic sentinel. Step onto the platforms and you're at the very last nice bit of the Bakerloo line heading north [photo]. So best head back south, from one Grade II listed station to the next. And all thanks to Stanley Heaps, thanks Stan. [Listing details]

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