The Jubilee Line Extension: One Of The London Underground's Finest Moments

Two canary wharf tube roundels on a platform

Mike Ashworth, former head of design and heritage for Transport for London, sings the praises of the Jubilee line extension.

“Which is your favorite tube station?” is a query I am usually requested. I labored for a few years serving to to protect and restore historic tube stations and so, sure, there are many “outdated” stations to select from. However, among the many most breathtaking and architecturally distinguished stations on the London Underground, you can’t ignore people who make up the Jubilee line extension of 1999-2000 (Westminster to Stratford). They’re magnificent. They’re underrated.

It isn’t simply me who thinks this. Of the architectural excursions I used to guide, these of the Jubilee line extension stations have been among the many hottest. Certainly, earlier this 12 months that I discovered myself once more, out of ‘retirement’, visiting these stations ‘east of Westminster’ with a bunch of 30 folks, and a canine.

They’re among the many most hanging public buildings of their era — worthy successors to the acknowledged genius of Charles Holden and Frank Choose. We owe this achievement to an equally exacting architect, Roland Paoletti, who oversaw the structure of the brand new line. Paoletti managed a uncommon factor: to marshal completely different architects and structural engineers to provide stations with particular person character however that also spoke a typical design language. Earlier than we get to the person stations, let’s take a fast have a look at the historical past of the road itself.

Jubilee line: a potted historical past

Workers beneath a huge sign for Queesnbury

Queensbury station started life in 1934 as a Metropolitan line station (this picture reveals that unique station being dug with the ‘lower and canopy’ methodology),earlier than transferring to the Bakerloo line in 1939, and eventually the Jubilee line in 1979. Picture: TfL

The Jubilee line was a very long time coming, with its genesis within the years instantly after the second world warfare. It stemmed from two foremost wishes. The primary was to drive a brand new east-to-west tube line throughout central London, assuaging strain on present traces such because the District, and serving uncared for areas within the east and south. For a few years this new line — supposed to be known as the Fleet line as a consequence of its route by the town — was aimed squarely at Thamesmead, the large housing improvement on the fringes of the Kentish marshes (everyone knows how that labored out). Its second goal was to unpick the pre-war work that had given the Bakerloo line two branches north of Baker Avenue, which had created a extremely congested tube line south in the direction of Elephant & Fort.

The primary part of the brand new line opened in 1979. It took over the Stanmore department of the Bakerloo, then ran by new tunnels between Baker Avenue and Charing Cross. The tunnels at this terminus pointed east, with the intention of an extra extension in the direction of the Metropolis.

At this level, much more consideration was given as to the place the newly-named Jubilee line (after the late Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee) would head to subsequent. The ultimate resolution was to desert the brand new tunnels from Inexperienced Park to Charing Cross, to go south of the river by Waterloo and London Bridge stations, into the brand new redevelopment areas of the Docklands, after which not go east however north, ending up at Stratford. Development began within the early Nineties and — in one thing of a final gasp — was lastly accomplished days earlier than the millennium celebrations centred on the Dome at North Greenwich. We used to joke that the one factor that did come to an finish, à la Millennium Bug, was constructing the Jubilee line.

In 1972, a ‘street deck’ was put in over Oxford Avenue, that means that site visitors may proceed to run, whereas the brand new Bond Avenue station was dug out beneath. Picture: TfL

For many tube station designers, the mark of ‘success’ is that passengers don’t really look too intently on the place. The thought is a easy movement of individuals out and in of the station, on and off the trains. Maybe a fleeting, reassuring look at an indication that’s all the time ‘acquainted’ due to the way it seems visually, it doesn’t matter what it really says. You may need to attend on the platform so it may very well be an advert, fastidiously positioned in order that your eyes cross over it with out hesitation; the key of a great advert is solely that — immediate recognition. That is additionally what’s on the coronary heart of the company identification, the ‘look’ of the Underground. Easy recognition by a mix of acquainted shapes, colors and areas.

However to make sure that degree of simplicity, quite a lot of work has to enter the character of the house and the main points it comprises. Beneath, I’ve picked out 5 of the Jubilee line extension stations the place this under-appreciated work is at its finest.

West Ham

The exterior of West Ham tube station

Picture Mike Ashworth

I can not quote the variety of passengers who use West Ham station however who by no means really set foot exterior it. It’s a lot although. That is, primarily, a busy interchange between the Underground, DLR and mainline providers. So, in lots of respects, that is structure of the inside. The topography of the station with platforms on an embankment and others at avenue degree, means you need to transfer passengers vertically in addition to laterally —- right down to avenue degree, again as much as recover from tracks, to return once more to the platform. Architects van Heyningen and Haward made this journey as intuitive as doable.

The interior areas are beneficiant — you possibly can see ‘the place to go’ by the character of the house you might be transferring by and in the direction of. The road degree ticket corridor, with the doorway and exit, is a lofty brick field that comprises a spacious collection of escalators that give entry to the overbridge. This once more is a transparent, mild and easy house whose glass brick partitions give a touch of a world exterior, while at night time making the station glow within the city streetscape.

Escalators and steps within west ham station

Picture Mike Ashworth

At platform degree, on the Jubilee line, what may very well be simply clean, boring brick partitions are detailed as to provide a way of rhythm and goal, the best way the bricks are recessed so fastidiously to create space for the bench seats. Sure, that is lovely brickwork.

Step exterior and you’ll clearly see how the station constructing’s inner areas are cleverly held collectively by repetitive parts. A box-like grid of concrete, brick and glazing, with echoes of these Thirties stations, all held collectively by an nearly single horizontal line. This defines the ‘prime line’ of the constructing which, beneath, passengers transfer about.

North Greenwich

North greenwich tube station platform

Picture Mike Ashworth

Tube stations are deep subterranean areas, with passageways and platforms like drain pipes. The standard methodology of creating folks really feel safe (and that they don’t seem to be in a drain pipe) is to make these areas as vibrant as doable; white tiles and many mild. Oddly this may be counter-intuitive. The ‘public toilet’ college of structure is filled with glare; edges and corners should stand out, normally by placing one thing like hazard tape on to indicate that sure, you have designed a hazard.

So, the very first thing that usually strikes folks on the platforms of North Greenwich station, designed by Alsop, Lyall and Störme, is the deep sense of blue shadow, of the station bleeding out away from you to an undefined edge. The trick right here is the place you place the sunshine. The brightest areas present the route alongside the lengthy, linear mezzanine that runs the size of the nice excavated field. Different illuminations spotlight the escalators, lifts and stairs. And, at platform degree, mild offers a relaxed, cool house wherein to attend or alight a practice. When describing this to the guests I discover myself talking in decrease, hushed tones as if to match the marginally mystical high quality of the house.

Inside Greenwich bus station

Picture Mike Ashworth

The deep blue mosaic tiles make this unmistakably North Greenwich. The mosaics are visually fascinating with myriad surfaces. The huge, angled columns are fastidiously shot by with traces of orange tiles at head peak, alerting you to the altering house beneath them; an inherent and never utilized a part of the design. Actual element.

You may think about my sense of horror just a few years in the past once I found somebody had fitted massive lengths of galvanised conduit over the mosaic and the visible impression it had right here. Managing change — and alter has to occur — was an essential a part of the job. Difficult colleagues to discover a extra applicable approach of becoming new cables was one other talent. The conduit was, right here, eliminated and the brand new wiring extra fastidiously positioned.

Enterprise upstairs to seek out your self in a unique house, one which feels in some methods like a practice station, organised and regimented, however that’s for buses not trains. Although this huge, sweeping house, designed by Norman Foster & Companions, doesn’t for a second really feel prefer it, it really is, I think, London’s largest bus shelter. It permits a transparent view out, beneath the excessive curved roof and thru the glass, of the crimson buses transferring round, and so immediately alerts you as to the character and goal of the place. To have the ability to merely discover, safely wait and board your bus onwards.

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf tube station escalators looking up

Picture Matt Brown

To enter into this station, by the deceptively shallow arch of the doorway, and all of the sudden end up on the massed banks of escalators trying down into the intermediate concourse degree is a revelatory expertise – if not fairly spiritual, as some would have it. Then once more, that is the station that appeared in Star Wars, Rogue One, so it clearly has common attraction. The sense of house and motion by the station is among the best achievements of this outstanding design by Norman Foster & Companions.

It’s value contemplating that these easy, mighty and unadorned concrete columns don’t simply assist maintain up that sweeping gull wing roof, however that in addition they assist maintain the ground down towards rising water strain. The station field is, in any case, in a drained dock. This station, just like the others, somewhat hides the talents of the structural engineers who, taking the architects’ fancy, helped flip it into concrete actuality. However sure, that is the station that makes guests marvel if solely as a result of it makes you’re feeling so small as you rise, ant-like, from deep platforms in the direction of the beckoning mild of the doorway.

The interior of Canary Wharf station - a deep chasm with escalators

Picture TfL

It is usually attention-grabbing to think about the view of certainly one of my older Underground managers who was all the time greater than baffled about me eulogising such a station. It was, in his ‘design ebook’, a failure in that passengers really had up to now to stroll. Such is what comes with house and grandiosity. What he’d make of the Elizabeth line I don’t care to think about…


Bermondsey tube station looking up

Picture Matt Brown

On the tour, I brush my finger towards the ‘easy’ chrome steel mesh wall on the backside of the escalators, explaining that texture is essential in design and that this makes for a wall that seems ‘stable’ however is actually ‘permeable’. It additionally filters mud so whereas I fastidiously wipe my arms I can distract the gang by asking them to search for. It really works fairly effectively as just one or two see me curse quietly! My recommendation is to look however don’t essentially contact the mesh.

However do search for. Right here at Bermondsey, by Ian Ritchie Architects, is one deep tube station the place you possibly can see daylight; from the east finish of the platforms. The shaft that allows that is each held up and aside by a collection of concrete beams, with fastidiously detailed finishes and form, that make for a wonderful vertical sculpture. It’s at moments reminiscent of this that we have to recall the talents of the advisor engineers in such areas. They’re the individuals who take the architects’ imaginative and prescient and switch them into actuality.

The voids above the escalators at Bermondsey

Picture Matt Brown

Following the sunshine up the escalator I’m able to discuss in regards to the relative transparency of the station as you possibly can, at and under avenue degree, see out and into the station, with motion on both aspect of the partitions. I additionally discover myself fastidiously telling the group the story of how the Underground very quickly eliminated a few of Ritchie’s personal ‘take’ on station indicators and furnishings that made a lot use of glass and the color blue. That blue nonetheless does, to an extent, survive as a slender band operating across the house, like a frieze. It’s, in fact, a really Underground color. One of many palette of company colors; the blue bar on the roundel used to provide a delicate trace of familiarity.

I additionally find yourself, as you do, discussing the ground tiles. It can’t be slippery or too non-slippery. It can’t be too mild or it’ll present grime, nor too darkish as to appear like a bottomless pit. It must be cleaned, accurately, or it’ll cease being non-slip. Oh, and sure, it ought to keep non-slip because it slowly wears down. By the best way, it also needs to, ideally, final for 80 years. There are particulars and there are particulars.


Southwark Station steps

An “illuminated glass prow”. Picture Matt Brown

There’s something complicated and theatrical about Southwark station, designed by Sir Richard MacCormac of MJP Architects. As you make your approach from the platform, you might be met with an illuminated glass prow, that feels as if it ought to be in an artwork deco lodge lobby, however that highlights the transfer upwards in the direction of the foot of the escalators. Normally escalators are very gregarious creatures and are available teams, however right here, every marked by a darkish boxed portal, they stand alone. There’s a purpose for this. They’re fastidiously threaded by the columns of the large Victorian brick railway viaduct that carries the mainline trains metres above our heads.

As you might be transported up — look forward! Opening up in entrance of you is a superb blossoming of blue. The whole opposing wall of this sweeping intermediate house is dominated by a prism of 630 specifically designed glass panels held on chrome steel ‘spiders’. One of many few artworks on the JLE, it’s by artist Alexander Beleschenko. The inspiration for that is drawn, suitably theatrically, from the 1815 stage set for Mozart’s The Magic Flute designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. So, is that this your second to face amongst the celebrities because the Queen of the Evening does within the opera?

The interior of Southwark station with blue panelling on the wall and an escalator descending to the right

We’re nonetheless drawn up in the direction of the road by escalators, passing by a ticket corridor paying homage to Arnos Grove station of 1932. The design received 4 prestigious architectural and engineering awards – so, I nonetheless roll my eyes each time I exploit it as, for some purpose, we selected to place a litter bin instantly under the awards plaques. Not simply roll my eyes however really feel the chilly hand of Frank Choose, the legendary Underground boss in pre-war years, and whose feedback on such element I can solely start to think about.

Already beneath risk

There’s far more to the Jubilee extension, in fact. I may even have mentioned Westminster station, a website that I noticed by from website acquisition to public opening. Or maybe Stratford Market Depot, one of many best buildings of all on the road and a uncommon pleasure if you happen to ever get the possibility to go to.

Area doesn’t permit. As an alternative, we must always finish with a warning.

A number of of the architectural masterpieces we’ve seen on this article are beneath risk of alteration or redevelopment, whereas the thorny subject of the Itemizing of such iconic trendy buildings is complicated and fraught. In 2017, TfL thought-about plans to assemble an ‘air rights’ constructing above Southwark station that might have been, in contrast to the supposed improvement, extremely harmful of lots of the floor parts of the station. A number of amenity societies, together with SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society, formally opposed the scheme and the station was, unsuccessfully, thought-about for Itemizing regardless of its relative youth. Such was the outcry that TfL ultimately pulled again and has since developed an alternate design that, as the unique plans allowed for, is not going to compromise the prevailing station.

A depot full of tube trains

Stratford Market Depot, one of many best buildings of all on the road and a uncommon pleasure if you happen to ever get the possibility to go to. Picture: Matt Buck by way of inventive commons

Equally harmful plans for redevelopment at North Greenwich will likewise see the dismantling of Foster’s great bus station and right here, the scheme arguably makes transport interchange worse, which given as we speak’s want to boost modal shift and encourage using public transport appears an odd factor to even take into account.

Total, this additionally raises the problem of sustainability: ought to we be demolishing such trendy buildings, nonetheless match for goal and doing the job they have been admirably designed to do, and doing it effectively? Definitely, evolution and adaptation are important and, certainly, a number of of those stations have been designed to have buildings constructed over them. However it is necessary too, I feel, to know the thought-about structure and particular nature of such buildings and design any intervention, massive or small, with thought and care.

So, for the value of a ticket, go and take a look at these stations yourselves and see what you make of them, maybe pondering the straightforward complexities of designing a tube station! In spite of everything, I’ll have let slip just a few commerce secrets and techniques…

Mike Ashworth, now retired, was a long-serving design and heritage supervisor for London Underground and Transport for London.

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