38. The mosaics at Maida Vale

Tiles all round Maida Vale won a National Railway Heritage award in 2010 as an example of the right way to modernise a historic building.

The station dates back to 1915, but was looking distinctly rough around the roundels before London Underground gave it a subtle but effective facelift. Centrepiece of the building, both then and now, are the twin mosaics on the walls of the entrance staircase:

Step inside, loveYou can’t miss them. Delicate and elegant, they are the first things you see when you step foot inside the station and begin your descent down the angular steps to the ticket hall.

Maida Vale is tiny. It’s squashed into a street corner and tries to make the most of its slightly oppressive architecture. Thankfully, the mosaics lift the atmosphere and also your sense of perspective. Without them the station would be a much gloomier and less roomier affair.

Their absence would also have left a rather acute aesthetic hole in this scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 film Downhill:

Fame at lastYou can tell just from looking at that shot that something bad is, has been or is about to start going on. Although admittedly the film title does somewhat give the game away.

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