City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Strong sentiments, as part of a clear strategy, expressed by London Underground MD Tim O’Toole the other day, drawing on the rich history of the Frank Pick years in order to shape a richer future for the transport network’s design and architecture work.

“Eighty years ago, London Underground and [managing director and designer of the tube map] Frank Pick were at the forefront of the design movement… What happened? Why aren’t we still in the lead? How did we allow our stations to become overrun with clutter, banks of telephones and photo booths and vending machines; bolt-on kit on top of bolt-on kit, overwhelming our control rooms and ticket offices; hopeless and sometimes pointless paper processes that cover all remaining surfaces with binders and forms; storefront and vendors encroaching on our space and obscuring our presentation. The underground has allowed the discipline of design management to be lost, merely fighting to save treasured artefacts while forgetting the importance of a coherent and consistent whole.”

As Building Design notes, some recent initiatives, such as the Jubilee Line extension, have been fine piece of work; yet Londoners will know that O’Toole is right to issue a clarion call to sort out the rest of the network.

Foster & Partners Canary Wharf

Building Design: Underground sets out new agenda for design


4 responses to ““Stations as distinctive as churches””

  1. jonny Avatar

    that’s a fantastic photo and an interesting article… but, Pick did not design the Tube map – although some attribute it to him. It was actually designed by Harry Beck in 1933.
    Beck was an underground electrical draughtsman. He based the map on the circuit diagrams he drew for his day job, stripping the sprawling Tube network down to basics.


  2. Dan Avatar

    Ah yes, that we know. I have that great book on Harry Beck’s map … Shame ‘Building Design’ don’t appear to know!


  3. jonny Avatar

    ah right! ok
    [sorry for that]


  4. Dan Avatar

    No probs! Should’ve spotted it and pointed it out myself.


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