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.
Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk