Remember Stainer Street? Probably not. The grotty traffic tunnel under London Bridge station was never a place to linger. Its closure a few years ago was mourned by few, we would hazard.
But now it's back. Scrubbed up and pedestrianised, it cuts once again between the streets of Tooley and St Thomas.
The resurrected thoroughfare sure comes with impressive baubles. We weren't the only ones to stand agog on Tooley Street, taking snaps of the decorative sculptures.
These glorious cups, lined with abstract patterns and messages, resemble the nozzles of rocket engines, perhaps plumbed into the base of the Shard up above. Others have compared them to magnificent umbrellas. Isn't it bad luck to open them indoors?
The work, called Me. Here. Now. is by Turner nominee Mark Titchner. Taken together, the messages read:
“Only the first step is difficult”
“The distance means nothing”
“One foot in front of the other”
More echoes of space travel? Perhaps we're over-thinking it.
Wandering further into the tunnel, we note a series of four plaques which provide historical snapshots of the street and station over time. The earliest plaque shows just how much the station has grown in its 180 years of existence.
The Victorian brickwork soon gives way to plainer, generic materials. It's a pity that more wasn't made of the crossing point where Stainer Street meets the arched undercroft that connects the tube and mainline stations. But there's the start of a to-do list for whoever reworks the station in 20 years time.
Stainer Street emerges onto St Thomas Street beside The Shard through a trio of arched doorways. Here we find a reminder that this rejuvenated passage has a dark history, a stark contrast to the uplifting messages of the northern end.