106/270: #Temple – The Opportunity Missed

Many London Underground stations, most notably those of the Leslie Green era in the early 20th century, were constructed in a low-rise fashion utilising steel frames and flat roofs allowing for future developments to be built on top of them. Prime examples can be seen all over the city especially in the centre of town where real estate is at a premium. Oxford Circus (002) and Goodge Street are two that instantly spring to mind.

It’s unclear to me whether the District Railway architects of Temple, constructed 1870, were attempting to employ a similar concept. A long single story facade fronts the Victoria Embankment with a huge flat roof terrace above, which plays host to… well, nothing. In retrospect it’s unlikely Temple was designed with vertical expansion in mind as this American influenced practice wasn’t going to become commonplace for another 20-30 years. Granted, there’s probably a back story to why Temple is only a large single story – perhaps the buildings behind on Temple Place had protected riverside views? Or perhaps the architects quite literally wanted it to look like a Temple to blend in with local architecture.

The good news however is that the roof terrace is accessible to the public, but to what end I have absolutely no idea. Prepare to be disappointed by a handful of forlorn benches and uneven paving, for that’s all that’s there. Even an 1899 picture of the station shows the terrace completely baron, so I really can’t work out what it’s for.

Westminster council call the terrace a “Roof Garden,” though I feel that’s stretching the boundary of the word ‘garden’. The website also claims to offer “great views across the river Thames towards the South Bank opposite” but if you arrive mid summer as I did, that view is rather blocked by the canopy of trees lining the Embankment, and besides the single story elevation is really no different than standing by the river across the road itself.

I can’t help but feel that Temple is an opportunity missed. There’s certainly scope for either TfL or Westminster Council (whoever actually owns the roof) to open up a nice landscaped garden, or even make use of the terrace as an events or arts space. Who knows perhaps there’s even money to be made here. I’m surprised Bar Salsa, the drinking establishment occupying the western end of the station, hasn’t got their hands on it and done something similar.

Dear Dragons…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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105/270: #CharingCross – The Centrepoint

Nelson, aloft his column, stares down on Trafalgar Square and Whitehall with an all commanding stance. He’s definitely the feature piece of the grand plaza that plays host to a famous collection of monuments and icons. In infrastructure terms however Nelson is but a mere footnote compared to the equestrian statue of King Charles I, who sits isolated in the middle of a mini roundabout. It’s at this exact point in front of Charlie’s horse’s hooves that all distances to and from London are measured. Seen a sign 120 miles to London on the M1? 120 miles to this exact point.

This subway entrance next to it is about as close as a tube station gets to being in dead centre of London. So what about the Underground? Is there a centre point, a mile zero, for the whole network? Yes… but it’s not here

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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104/270: #Waterloo – The Crane

En route to my favourite bookshop in town, Ian Allan obviously, I pass round the back of Waterloo station with the dominant triangular glass roof occupying the horizon. Nestled in between this and the main road is a blue crane, poking its head just above the surface of the street. With the Waterloo & City line being completely isolated from the rest of the tube network, this winch is the only way to get trains, one car at a time, in and out of the depot buried beneath the roadway.

Or at least so I thought. 

This is actually a common myth, and the crane seen below is merely used as a goods lift. *

This naturally seems incredibly awkward but, as is the way with so much of London, it didn’t always used to be the way. When the Waterloo & City line was constructed a similar hoist was provided with direct rail access to the low level sidings along side the station allowing tube cars to be hauled away for maintenance. The original Armstrong lift was powered by hydraulics.

These days the only way to get cars in and out of the depot is via a mobile road crane.*

*Thanks to @MoreToJack for the corrections.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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103/270: #Euston – The Controversial

I’m going to come out and say something unpopular: I like Euston mainline station. This opinion doesn’t necessarily align itself with popular discourse however and railway and architecture enthusiasts up and down the land will constantly lament the argued ruthless demolition of the Phillip Charles Hardwick original. Amongst many of the grand classical features lost to the 1960’s rebuild was the famed Euston Arch, a commanding portico fronting Drummond Street that properly announced the arrival of the London & Birmingham railway in a typically ostentatious Victorian style. It is often credited with being the greatest architectural loss to the railways, if not London, when the brutalist designers of the 60’s swept through town after the war pulling down these important bits of heritage.

Important they were, yes, but here’s why I like modern Euston and more to the point, here’s why I think it’s better than the original. Come the 50’s, Hardwick’s Euston had become grotty and worn out and was not fit for the demands placed upon it. This was after all the gateway to the West Coast Mainline and ergo the Midlands, the North and beyond. The replacement, designed by BR architects William Headley and MR Moorcroft, dragged Euston in the 20th century. A vast, bright concourse was constructed to welcome travellers in and out of the station, aided by the use of large windows and open spaces, this new facility improved passenger flow and was easier to use and navigate. Instead of dumping you on a side street, the new entrance was moved closer to Euston Road, with an open square, shopping precinct and bus terminal incorporated into the design. The tube station was rationalised as well with a new entrance bringing you right up into the middle of the concourse, further removing the need for passengers to get in the way of road traffic. (Check out my video on Euston’s abandoned passageways). Even the taxi rank is hidden away underneath the station. All of this is incredibly clever, and I’m a big fan of joined up public transport integration with thought given to the user experience as a whole. It’s something the brutalist planners and architects of the 60’s were surprisingly good at, and we would do well in the modern era to celebrate and take guidance from their ideas.

The trouble with Euston is that if you’re going to bulldoze amazing architecture (and actually it’s perhaps important to note that in the 60’s nobody liked Victorian buildings) you better damn well make sure the replacement is something superior. And that’s where our 21st century opinions start to take over. Throughout the years Euston has been adapted and bastardised to such an extent that those clever design features have been detrimentally lost. We’ve built extra kiosks and advertising hoardings in the concourse, reducing the spread of natural light and making the station feel dull. The space outside has been built over with fences and railings making it harder to navigate and ugly to look at. The platforms too are chronically unloved and unwelcoming and on the face of it I start to understand why people think Euston is the worst of the termini.

With the advent of HS2 and the pending redevelopment of the station, I can however see us in 50 years time looking back at 1960’s Euston, just like we did with the Arch and Hardwick and think – actually, that wasn’t half bad, maybe we shouldn’t have pulled it down after all, maybe should have looked after it instead.

But then that would make me a hypocrite. Mourning the loss of what I feel is a 1960’s icon, would be no better than getting teary eyed about a grotty arch I never got to see. Maybe Euston is destined to be rebuilt over and over again, with nobody truly appreciating its merits and gems until it’s too late. And maybe that’s okay.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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102/270: #SouthKensington – The Meeting Place

Once upon a time South Kensington was the meeting point of the two giants of early underground rail travel in London, the Metropolitan Railway and the District Railway, as seen in the ornate ironwork above the Thurloe Street shopping parade. These days the, and rather confusingly for tourists, it’s the District and Circle that serve the sub surface route. The importance of the space required to interchange between the two rival companies is still evident down at platform level where two further outer platforms lay abandoned, which, long since the passing of trains, now play host to a handful of pot plants.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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