Charles Holden's iconic underground stations

Posted on July 8, 2013 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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Arnos Grove station designed in 1929 and opened in 1932


Most Londoners have a love/ hate relationship with the Tube/ underground. While it can be efficient and convenient on some good days, it can also be crowded, hot, disruptive with long delays on many bad days and most of us seem to experience the latter more ( or we feel as if we do).

What we have forgotten is that London's tube system is the oldest in the world and it was never intended to carry one billion passengers daily! In the early 1930s, the extension of the Piccadilly line took place and subsequently, a string of iconic stations were born thanks to Frank Pick ( the managing director at the time), and the two architects: Charles Holdenand Stanley Heaps.


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Oakwood station, designed in 1929 and opened in 1933


Last week, I joined an afternoon walk organised by the London transport Museum to explore the area of around Southgate, and to learn about how its history, development and architecture including the three well-known tube stations: Oakwood, Southgate and Arnos Grove.

The most iconic of all is the Arnos Grove station, a Grade II listed building which was chosen by archi­tectural critic Jonathan Glancey as one of the 12 "Great Modern Buildings" by The Guardian in October 2007. Inside the station, there are even newspaper clippings and original architectural drawings of the station on display, which shows the 'significance' of this station.


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 Southgate station, designed in 1929 and opened in 1933


Simplicity and functionality are key elements in Holden's designs, with a strong influence from European architecture especially by the work of Willem Dudok and Erik Gunnar Asplund. His buildings are often symmetrical with large windows that allow plenty of daylight to penetrate into the spacious ticket hall. Traditional English brickwork was combined with smooth concrete, along with metal window frames and glazed tiling. Even the signage or typefaces were developed and designed specifically for these stations.

The most surreal one though has to be the futuristic or spaceship-like Southgate station ( also a Grade II listed building) which even has a beacon on the roof ( I am especially keen to see it at night)! The station was renovated in 2008 but has preserved many of the original features including the escalators. I love the bronze lighting, paneling and tiles, all very art deco! Another interesting feature here is the circular station parade ( a bus station with shops) built around the station for commuters to interchange between the tube and buses, the two designs complement each other very well.


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Main and bottom left: Southgate station parade designed in 1929


Holden has designed many other underground stations in different parts of London, this walk was a taster for me which has triggered my interest to explore more of his other stations in the future.


This post was posted in London, Architecture, British design, Architectural conservation, Design, Modernist & Art Deco, Transport, British heritage and was tagged with London, architecture, walks, heritage, London transport museum, Charles Holden, art deco architecture