Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday February 10 2013

Yesterday, I lived my life, but I am determined, having started, to finish telling you about last Thursday.

So, okay, I have now arrived at Westminster Tube Station.

Most tube stations consist of lots of underground tubes, not just for the trains but also for the people.  Westminster Tube Station is different.

In its original form, it was a regular tube station, made entirely out of tubes.  But then they built Portcullis House across the road from Big Ben and Parliament, the one with the giant chimneys on top, where MPs now have vast new quantities of office space to wreak their havoc.  Many think powerful MPs are a good thing, because they will “hold the executive to account” better, but what they mostly now do is nag the executive to bite off more and more unchewable activity, and complain if the executive ever doesn’t.

While they were building Portcullis House, they combined that with doing a total rebuild of the tube station right underneath it.

And this time around, instead of grubbing about in the ground like moles, they just dug a huge, huge hole, like they do when building any other new building.  Just deeper.

As a result, the process of getting from station entrance to train, or from train to train (what with the station now being an interchange between the District and Circle Line, and the newer Jubilee Line - which is the one I was taking), is as dramatic and theatrical as battling through a regular tube station is grim and demeaning and demoralising.  At Westminster Tube, you now go up and down inside a huge open space, like a department store with no stuff in it, and grey rather than all spangly and coloured.  I love it, even though it has a decidedly fascist feel to it, maybe even because it has a decidedly fascist feel to it.  At least its stylish fascism, rather than just lumpy and cloddish.  But mainly, I think I love it because it is so different from a regular tube station.

While there last Thursday, I only took one shot, namely this:

image

Had I known I was on a Blogged Odyssey, I would have taken many more shots, of all that dramatic open space with science fictiony structure in among it, supporting the building above and the escalators within, but on Thursday all I thought I was doing was taking the tube.  I would have taken shots like the ones here.  Someone really should set a movie gun fight in this place, don’t you think?  Perhaps they already have.

As for my picture above, it puzzled me for a while.  At first I thought the right-way-round Westminster tube sign was some kind of double reflection, but there is only one sheet of glass involved, so it can’t be that.  In the end I cracked it, metaphorically speaking.  The Westminster tube sign is where it seems to be, but how it looks is confused by the reflection of the wall behind me.  It looks like the sign is projected onto the wall.  In fact, the wall behind me is projected onto the sign.  To the left, you can see the regular wall that the tube sign is actually attached to.

That white circular thing behind me, actually a fire hose I think, looks like a full moon.

Once again, I fear most may not care.  But photographed reflections are a thing of mine.

It’s not all that unlike other stations on the Jubilee Line Extension, though - at least not the ones where an essentially new station was built as part of that project. Canary Wharf is an even bigger hole in the ground, and Canada Water is another similar interchange station to Westminster, although not as busy as either a destination or a change (although it has been rapidly becoming busier as the various stages of the East London Line extension and upgrade have come into service).

The station architecture on the JLE has been much praised - deservedly I think. Westminster has also been ranked very highly on surveys in which passengers have been asked about their favourite tube stations. It is a very busy interchange, but also a very easy one. You can change from District to Jubilee or the other way round very quickly and with very little walking. Compare with Green Park (one of the least popular tube stations) in which to change lines you have to walk lengthy distances in narrow and quite claustrophobic tunnels.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 10 February 2013

If I could nitpick a little; Westminster Station was originally just District and Circle lines, both cut and cover “dig a trench and put a roof over it” construction. The station was made into the current huge hole in the ground for the extension of the Jubilee line (in 1999 I think) which originally terminated at Charing Cross. I think the construction of Portcullis House was a happy coincidence.
As for the architecture I also love it as a modern refinement of the brutalism that got a bad name in the 60s and 70s. Currently round these parts (Birmingham) the planners are gleefully tearing down anything from that era whether having merit or not and replacing it with postmodern garish cheese, all red block paving, jaunty angles and big signs saying “Don’t you DARE try and drive here”. It will probably cause much furrowing of brows by planners in 40 years time. They seem to like architectural fads ‘round here.

Posted by Friday Night Smoke on 10 February 2013
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