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.