If there’s one theme above all else that’s come to define this blog, it’s light. The way it bounces through, curves round, dives deep and sidles into the Underground’s heart. The lengths some architects and engineers have gone to coax it into places far from the open air. The magical results achieved by manipulating its power and magnifying its potential.
Light runs counter to almost every association prompted by the word “Underground”. Yet it is responsible for some of the greatest sensations you can experience on the network, both deliberate and by chance. The ticket hall at West Acton would look impressive even without direct sunlight nudging through its neatly-aligned panes. But catch it when the rays are in just the right position, and the effect is glorious – both inside and out:
The elevated windows allow light to pass through in either direction, including on to the platforms which sit behind and below the hall. It’s a simple trick, but with profound consequences: it gives passengers waiting for or getting off trains the added bonus of being bathed in sunshine that might otherwise be obscured by buildings. And if there’s one thing you don’t want on a platform at an Underground station that’s above ground, it’s gloom.
We’ve the Great Western Railway to thank for this, and everything else to be cherished about West Acton, including its eccentric crook-shaped wooden benches and enamel signage. Brian Lewis designed its current incarnation, completed in 1940: a (literal) beacon of light in those dark days.
It’s now Grade II-listed. The inside of the ticket hall isn’t in quite as fine a state as its gleaming exterior. But a slice of sunlight sometimes adds soul to even the shabbiest of rooms.