Just 18 Pictures Of Modernist Tube Stations Looking Dreamy

By Londonist Last edited 10 months ago

Last Updated 21 August 2023

Just 18 Pictures Of Modernist Tube Stations Looking Dreamy

As Joshua Abbott and Philip Butler's beautiful Tube Station Anthology book gets a redesign and a reprint, we look at more of the modernist stations across the network that we adore — and a few we might've overlooked.

A curved station with huge windows glowing orange in the night sky
Chiswick Park, 1932. Chiswick Park was Holden's first attempt at a circular ticket hall and possibly the first indication of the influence of the new European transport architecture. The new building replaced a station from 1879 to accommodate the new Piccadilly line track extension from Hammersmith. As became standard, the design originated with Holden and was then given over to the office of Stanley Heaps to produce the final plan. This scheme sees a semi-circular drum ticket hall sitting on a curved brick base incorporating a shopping parade. A brick tower rises beside it, emblazoned with the station name and London Transport logo. The influence of Heaps can be seen in the curved platform shelters, which were built in concrete and left unvarnished.
Various exits leading to Cockfosters Road, Car Park and Public Telephones
Cockfosters, 1933. The terminus of the extension is the most atypical, and perhaps, most interesting of Holden's station designs. Two straightforward surface buildings lead down to a long, nave-like space containing the ticket hall and platform areas, partly covered by the train shed. The structure is of reinforced, board-marked concrete, lit from above by large clerestory windows achieving a grandeur not often seen at such a minor stop. The intended plan for the station was to have two towers on either side of the road where the current buildings are. Ultimately, the current design was used with an eye on building shops and even a cinema on top as the suburbs grew. Due to the Green Belt Act after the second world war, the spread of semis was checked, and the station was left alone.
A tube platform with a curved marquee
Loughton, 1940. The current Loughton station is the third station to serve the town, opening in 1940 and joining the Central Line in 1948. The new station was designed by John Easton Murray of Stanley Hall, Easton & Robertson, his only station. The redevelopment was overseen by the LNER and London Transport, bearing the hallmarks of both companies' history. The ticket hall, built in golden brown brick around a reinforced concrete frame, is influenced by both Holden stations of the 1930s and the LNER terminal at King's Cross, as seen in the half-moon main window. The front of the station features a bus interchange and a small parade of shops, keeping the civic hub idea alive. The platforms have two wonderful curving passenger shelters in concrete with porthole roof lights.
The curvaceous form of East Finchley station, with the silhouette of the art deco archer visible
East Finchley, 1939-42. Like Uxbridge, East Finchley station results from an original design by Bucknell and Ellis with some revisions by Charles Holden. This building replaced the 1867 Great Northern Railway station and was the terminus of the Northern Line until 1940. The new station is built around the four-track viaduct that goes underground slightly to the south. Viewed from the street, the building doesn't have the same visual clarity as earlier Holden-era buildings but makes up for this at platform level. Here, the open platforms have streamlined waiting rooms and a statue of an archer by Eric Aumonier. Over the tracks sits a building containing offices and staff rooms with prominent glazed towers incorporating spiral staircases. The station is the only building completed as part of the ill-fated Northern Heights project.
A modernist station with a tall tower, and a roundel on it
Osterley, 1934. Like Boston Manor, Osterley eschews the box-style station in favour of a squat ticket hall building with a totem-like tower topped by a concrete finial. The original design was produced by Stanley Heaps, who envisioned a box-style station. However, Frank Pick wanted something more enticing to draw in potential passengers to the station, situated alongside the busy Great West Road. As at Osterley, Charles Holden and Charles Hutton produced a new design, with a tower influenced by the Telegraaf Building in Amsterdam by JF Staaf & GJ Langhout, completed in 1930, a reminder of the importance of the 1930 European trip by Holden and Pick. The station building includes a long glazed passenger footbridge over the tracks to the eastbound platform.
A clock on a beige tiled wall - with little else but hand and pips stuck on the tiles
Ruislip Manor, 1938. Like South Harrow, Ruislip Manor abuts the railway with entrances on both sides of the bridge. Alternative design solutions were considered, including a scheme using prefabricated parts that could be replicated at other sites on the line. In the end, simplicity and economy won out, with the twin entrances part of a small parade of shops and the staircases tower and platform areas above them. The most interesting part of the interior is the number-free art deco-style clock at the bottom of the stairs. The platforms have concrete shelters, but these lack the assurance of Stanley Heaps's earlier shelter designs at stations like Oakwood and Chiswick Park. Further down the platform is an original wooden shelter from 1912 when the station was named Ruislip Manor Halt.
A vast concrete ticket hall with stained glass windows
Uxbridge, 1938. The terminus station of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly Lines has an incongruously grand facade, the result of the collaboration between Charles Holden, Leonard Bucknell and Ruth Ellis. The new station replaced a 1904 Metropolitan Railway station located on the outskirts of the town. Bucknell and Ellis's original design proved too large and expensive for the budget, so Holden revised the scheme adding a Cockfosters-style train shed. The front facade, decorated with sculptures by Joseph Armitage, curves around a now pedestrianised area, complete with an illuminated roundel sign. Inside, the ticket hall is lit by clerestory windows and stained glass work by Ervin Bossányi, continuing into the reinforced concrete structure covering the platform areas.
An ominous, bunker-esque tube station - grey and looming, but punctuated with glowing roundels
Wanstead, 1940-7. Wanstead went through many variations in design, including a cross-shaped ticket hall with a bus interchange similar to Southgate. Ultimately, a rectangular plan was chosen, balanced by a ventilation tower in glass brick and featuring a carving of St. George and the Dragon by Joseph Armitage. However, after the war the design was revised, with the glass brick and carving making way for prefabricated concrete panels finished in grey render and black tile around the entrance. Inside, the ticket hall is spacious and plain, with glass bricks bringing in light. Wanstead, Redbridge and Gants Hill stations were used as air-raid shelters during the war, while Plessey Electronics occupied the unused tunnels in between for manufacturing munitions.
A tube ticket hall with a red phone box and a swastika on the floor
Upminster Bridge, 1934. The most individual of the Upminster extension stations, Upminster Bridge, opened on 17 December 1934. Like the others, the construction is of dark brown brick, but here in a more interesting arrangement, with vertical and horizontal bonding giving greater visual interest than the previous stations. There is a double-height ticket hall with a polygonal brick second floor featuring a glass-brick roof light. The most eye- catching part of the interior is the swastika design inlaid in the terrazzo floor. This ancient religious icon was used widely in the Western world at the start of the century before its co-optation by the Nazi party. The ticket hall also features a restored K4 red telephone box. A walkway takes passengers up to the platform area. Here you can find a couple of distinctive curved red wooden benches. They originally sported enamel station names signs, now removed.
A beautiful art deco vent with scenes of nature on it
Bounds Green, 1932. A variation on the Holden 'Sudbury Box', the ticket hall at Bounds Green features chamfered edges, allowing more daylight into the interior. The octagonal building is counterbalanced by a rectangular ventilation tower with bright blue louvres. The concourse area features two bronze uplighters, originally found at all the extension stations. In this case, one is original and one a replacement. Like Wood Green, the platform area features decorative brass ventilation grilles depicting flora and fauna. The southbound platform has a plaque commemorating 19 people killed when a Luftwaffe bomb hit the station in October 1940.
A vast ticket hall with passimeters and clerestory windows
Oakwood, 1932. From the outside, Oakwood appears to be just another brick-box style station, but this functional appearance belies many interesting design points. The plan is similar to stations like Acton Town and Sudbury Town, but with extra windows to allow more daylight and an extended canopy at the front. The ticket hall is spacious, with shops and facilities as part of the civic hub ideal. The platforms feature cantilevered concrete canopies designed by Stanley Heaps. It was often Heaps's task to develop the more mundane details, but here and at other stations like Chiswick Park and Ealing Common, his platform shelters rise to the occasion, balancing poise and purpose.
A black brick tower with a glowing Underground roundel towards the top
Swiss Cottage, 1939. A station named Swiss Cottage had been opened by the Metropolitan Railway in 1868, rebuilt in the 1920s by CW Clark, and then closed in 1940. A new station was opened in 1939 adjacent to the old with no street-level buildings, although a lollipop roundel and ventilation tower denoted the entrance. The subterranean ticket hall is finished with cream tiling on the walls and a green speckled design on the floor. The escalators to the platform are typical of the New Works Programme stations, with a staircase down the middle and bronze uplighters along the way. The top and bottom of the escalators also feature 'WAY OUT' and 'TO TRAINS' backlit roundels. The platforms are finished in the same cream tile as the ticket hall, with green and brown trim with the station name in black lettering. The original ventilation tower was replaced in 1979 with the current black brick totem.
Walk towards the top of escalators lined with glorious art deco style ceiling lights
Gants Hill, 1937-47. Gants Hill has virtually no above-ground buildings, with a planned clock tower being dropped, but its beauty lies underground. Subway pedestrian tunnels lead down to a subterranean ticket hall lit by square art deco roof lights. Down the escalators is the Moscow Metro-inspired concourse area, probably the best of Holden's time with the Underground. The concourse is 150 ft long with a domed ceiling and finished in cream tiles with orange trim. The idea for a Moscow-style station was pushed by Frank Pick, with London Transport having close links with the Soviet authorities since their visit to see the Piccadilly Circus rebuild and a subsequent visit by London Transport officials to Moscow in 1935. With Gants Hill, the circle of influence was complete.
Gazing up at the ceiling of a circular ticket hall surrounded by long, tall windows
Arnos Grove, 1932. Widely considered one of Holden’s best designs, his station at Arnos Grove combines rationalist Northern European Modernism with an Arts and Crafts appreciation of materials. The circular drum ticket hall sits on top of a square base, both formed from Staffordshire and Buckinghamshire brick around a concrete frame. A single concrete pillar supports the ticket hall ceiling, still with its original ticket 'passimeter' at the base and an interior featuring bronze and wooden fixtures and fittings. The bridge leading down to the platforms is of unpolished (but now painted) concrete. Holden's assistant Charles Hutton worked closely on this station, rearranging some of the details of Holden's initial design to accommodate the radical exposed concrete frame.
An outdoor tube station lit at night - with various windows stepping down towards the platform
Park Royal, 1936. Built to replace the original District Railway station from 1903, Park Royal is an excellent example of Frank Pick's drive to introduce a more eye-catching look to the tube network. The new station, designed by Herbert Welch and Felix Lander, was needed to serve the neighbouring Hanger Hill estate — also the work of Welch and Lander. The building, situated next to Western Avenue, makes its presence felt with a tall, square tower sporting the Underground roundel on each side. The ticket hall is a circular design, which along with the tower and the curved parade of shops, makes up a visually engaging arrangement of volumes from different angles.
The curved facade of Leytonstone tube station - with some Hitchcock mosaics visible in the entrance hall
Leytonstone, 1947. Leytonstone was another station rebuilt to accommodate the new Central line extension eastwards. Its history shares the same trajectory as its neighbour, Leyton. It opened in 1856 for the Eastern Counties Railway, before becoming part of the Great Eastern Railway in 1867, then the LNER in 1923. Unlike Leyton, a totally new station building and platforms were constructed for the Central line takeover. Construction had started before the second world war but was halted in May 1940. The new station building, opened in May 1947, is a single-storey brick structure with a curved entrance leading into a long passenger tunnel to the above-ground platforms. The entrance and tunnel now feature mosaics celebrating the work of local hero Alfred Hitchcock created by the Greenwich Mural Workshop in 1999–2001 to commemorate the centenary of his birth.
A ticket hall with circular shapes in the ceiling
Manor House, 1932. Manor House may be the least distinguished of the eastern Piccadilly extension stations, but it does have some interesting design details. The station is situated on a busy road junction with nine subway entrances and a modest street-level building with glass bricks. The subterranean ticket hall features a ceiling design of interlocking concentric circles and cylindrical glass timetable and fare displays units. The platforms have decorative metal ventilation grilles, designed by Harold Stabler, said to depict the myths and legends of the local area.
A curved waiting room/canopy over a tube station at night
Kilburn, 1939. Kilburn station was originally opened by the Metropolitan Railway in 1879 as Kilburn & Brondesbury. This part of its heritage can still be seen with the Met's name spelt out along the bridge that carries the tracks over Kilburn High Road. The station entrance was reconstructed in 1915 to allow widening of the track. In 1939 the building was given new finishes when transferred to the Bakerloo line, including glass bricks and the same cream and grey colour scheme as neighbouring stations. The most striking part of the 1930s redesign is the streamlined platform canopies, with their curving gull-wing roofline. The station name was shortened purely to Kilburn in 1950 and it became part of the Jubilee line in 1979.

London Tube Stations: 1924-1961 by Philip Butler and Joshua Abbott, published by FUEL

All images © Philip Butler / FUEL