Thursday, January 8, 2015

Maida Vale, London

Roundel, deluxe version

London’s roundel symbol, conceived for the underground but also used on buses and coaches from the 1930s onwards, is one of the most successful logos in the world. When shown bearing the word UNDERGROUND it alerts us instantly, and combined with the underground’s typical architecture (oxblood-tiled early-20th century stations by Leslie Green, 1930s ones by Charles Holden and his colleagues, for example) it quickly becomes part of the visual vocabulary of anyone visiting or living in the capital.

The roundel appears in various forms – painted, reproduced in tiles, or printed, for example – but I know of only one station (maybe there are others) where it’s reproduced in the form of a mosaic. This is at Maida Vale’s station (opened in 1915), where two big mosaic roundels, their red tesserae glinting slightly, greet the passenger at the top of the stairs. The roundel is complemented by the off-white tiles around it, and the elegant linear pattern of off-white and green tiles, a lovely touch. It’s an early version of the roundel, with the red disc that preceded the now-familiar red ring (it’s actually one of the last to have the disc) and with non-standard typography, but still striking.

I don’t know why Maida Vale station was singled out for this visual treatment, but it’s an absolute treat. Excellent as the exterior is – it’s one of the oxblood tiled ones, with segmental-arched windows and bold white diamond glazing bars – it doesn’t prepare one for these mosaics. A pleasant visual surprise for the visitor and a feature in which locals can take justified pride.


Philip Wilkinson said...

If anyone's commenting, by the way, please accept my apologies for my recent tardiness when it comes to publishing some of the comments. This has been due in part to my being busy over Christmas but has mainly been because the email system I use to alert me to the comments was consigning some of them to the Spam folder, so I didn't realise they'd arrived. I will try to be more alert to the vagaries of technology.

Jenny Woolf said...

It is not one of the stations I use at all. I don't live far though so I will nip in next time I pass. There are a few tube stations with old tilework inside them. I'm trying to remember one where there are old roundels and what look like Edwardian tilework. Regents Park? I really must be more observant.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jenny: Quite a lot of the older Northern Line stations have early tiling on the platforms – Camden Town and Chalk Farm, for example, and Hampstead, which has its old name, Heath Street, emblazoned in tiles. Some of the older Piccadilly Line stations, like Covent Garden, do too. There are LOTS of stations that still have their Edwardian oxblood exterior tiling, a real asset to London in my opinion. Yes I think Regent's Park has old tiling on the platforms.