41. The alcoves at Barbican

Still mortar offerThis was suggested by Mark Siddall (yes, I am open to any and all nominations).

My photos don’t quite represent the full breadth of eerie elegance created when the sun is in a certain part of the sky and you are standing in a certain part of the station. But it’s the alcoves that best capture and amplify the effect of having so much of the area both cut into the ground and open to the sky.

The shadows and illuminations can give the impression of descending into a baroque catacomb – or, if it’s an especially warm day, an enormous kiln.

Catacomb with a viewThe sensations are heightened – literally – by the tall buildings rising up on all sides. It’s quite an atypical design for a station on almost the oldest stretch of line on the entire Underground. In fact I can’t think of another station on the Circle line that is quite so exposed to the sky, at least not in quite as dramatic a fashion.

This impression of cavernous space is compounded still further by the now disused platforms that sit alongside the Underground tracks:

Dead endThameslink trains to Moorgate used to come this way. Now, nothing. The platform wall is still dutifully updated with the latest advertisements, should your gaze drift momentarily across the tracks. Some of the roundels could do with a bit of attention, though:

Dirty rotten roundelI know some people think the “true” Underground is never open to the elements. I disagree. Barbican exposes the heart of the Underground in the heart of the London in heart-tugging style.

(Oh, and thanks Mark!)

  1. Greg Tingey said:

    Gloucester Road?

  2. Mark Siddall said:

    So glad my suggestion made it onto the list! Ian’s described the scale of the arched alcoves brilliantly. In the sunshine, it feels like an ancient colonnade, carved out of the pale brick walls. If it were down to me, I’d get rid of the corrugated metal shelter that runs along half the platform to expose the arches in full. But are they ever going to do anything with the disused Thameslink tracks?

  3. There have been rumours (just rumours, mind) that the DLR is eyeing up those platforms for an extension from Bank. Until them, the Underground are just going to use them as sidings.

  4. Worth pointing out that the open air effect wasn’t the design intention, but the result of Mr. Hitler’s attempts at obliterating London. The 1st photo shows the supports of the erstwhile roof. There’s a good set of historic photos of Aldersgate Street (as it originally was) on the LT Museum site.

  5. I do wish they’d find a reason to restore the old roof. It would be a great sight. Will never happen.

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