These three handsome gems sit above the station’s exit, depicting ancient coats of arms in sparkling technicolour. Created by the Hungarian artist Ervin Bossányi, who also made stained glass for the V&A and York Minster, they give a hallowed air to a rousing, regal terminus.
Two of these suave designs can be found at the Hammersmith station building that straddles the District and Piccadilly lines; one in the main entrance hall and one on the westbound District line platform. The colours of the two lines the station serves form the outer ring, while the 12 hours of the day are denoted by the Underground map symbols for a station stop and an interchange. The absence of numbers, indeed any numerical information at all, echoes the similarly functional yet equally stylish platform clocks at Gants Hill. Why the hands are Central line-red is another matter. To make the clock more attractive? Well, that’s as good a reason as any.
A bit of history gets under your fingernails every time you pass through Baker Street. On its 150-year-old Circle line platforms, heritage perspires from the carefully-lit walls, where illuminated alcoves display archive drawings. Here, Victoriana snuggles up to your senses from all directions.
These mosaics are the first things you see when you step foot inside the station before descending the steps to the ticket hall. The work lifts the atmosphere and your sense of perspective. They also enjoyed a suitably suspenseful cameo in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 film Downhill.
This clock dates from the 1920s – its central strip scrolls imperceptibly across the map of the world at the same speed as the planet’s rotation, so you can tell the time around the globe. Somewhere the sun is always shining for this antique watchman, and hopefully always will.
If you’re ever inclined to worship the Underground, the chapel-like Turnpike Lane is a good place to start. Charles Holden’s segmented windows allow light to pour into the nave-like interior, while a reverence envelops the building like a particularly voluminous cassock.
Like the Aldgate East tiles, this and other grilles along the Piccadilly line were the work of Harold Stabler. A brazenly romanticised neighbourhood panorama, you can forgive the shamelessness because of the detail and reassuring parochialism. Look: a snoozing owl and a pot plant!
Were Transport for London ever inclined to hire out its stations for games of hide and seek, Westminster should be your number one choice. It would be a palatial plaything in which you could stay concealed for hours. This is a joyous, labyrinthine union of architecture and engineering that astounds rather than confounds with its intricacy and ambition. Walking through it is like being miniaturised inside a Swiss timepiece. Dozens of colossal concrete columns plunge and stab their way with panache through the station’s alluring heart. Designed by Hopkins Architects, it’s one of London’s marvels, holding its own against the Houses of Parliament next door.
Architecture was one of the few things the Soviet Union got right. But Londoners don’t have to rely on photos or travel brochures to get a whiff of Cold War chintz. Gants Hill, designed by Charles Holden, was inspired by the Moscow Metro, for which he served as an adviser. There are no Stalin-endorsed chandeliers here, but the huge vaults and colourful tiling are straight out of the Comintern handbook. The clocks aren’t ideal if you’re trying to teach someone to tell the time, but that’s not really the point. They embody the same principles as Harry Beck’s map: that less is sometimes more; and that information should be there to serve others and not simply itself.
Harold Stabler designed a sequence of tiles embedded sporadically along Aldgate East’s platforms. This one shows LU’s HQ near St James’s Park. Bulletins of whimsy from a time when public art was both stylish and fun, the tiles elevate a humdrum station into something special.