Time is running out for TfL's competition to design a new Routemaster - it closes in just over a week. But a recently republished article from the Blueprint archive reveals that this is not the first time Londoners have been solicited for their ideas on how to build a better bus.
For its 25th anniversary issue, on sale now, architecture and design journal Blueprint has chosen a selection of the best journalism over its quarter century lifetime. One of the featured pieces, "RT Detour", written by Jonathan Glancey for the inaugural issue in October 1983, bemoans a plan by London Transport (as they were known) to get rid of the Routemaster as they attempted to shift their fleet to single-person operation. Plus ça change.
Intriguingly, while Glancey notes that LT is "talking to leading design practices", he also mentions that the Royal Academy of Art is "sponsoring its own design-a-London-bus competition". There's not much more detail than that, yet the article is illustrated with some impressive efforts: Sebastian Conran's submits a line-drawing of a small-wheeled, electric powered vehicle, while Daniel Weil conjures a bus with a retractable roof for the warmer months. Was summer all that less wet in the Eighties? There's also a sleek, bullet shaped model with a detachable driver's cab designed by Jan Kaplicky and David Nixon which, presciently, anticipates modern concerns by incorporating a motorised ramp for wheelchair passengers.
As we well know, rumours of RM's demise turned out to be a little premature. But what happened with the RA's design competition? Perhaps it fizzled out and died, or perhaps there's a stockpile of inventive yet unrealised schemes and ideas sitting in a dusty basement somewhere under Piccadilly. Might be worth TfL's while to get digging.