130. The ticket hall at Northfields
For around 1,000 years, Christianity had a monopoly on big buildings full of silence and high windows. Then the 20th century happened, and the London Underground decided it wanted a helping of the same architectural brew.
The Piccadilly line serves out portions of stuff at intervals a damn sight more frequent than Sunday communion. One of the most intoxicating can be found at Northfields, in the guise of a building that is more like a secular cathedral than a ticket hall.
What is it about this place that makes it not merely attractive, but mesmerising? A clue is in the design of the acoustics. Sound ascends upwards, giving the environment even more of a hallowed feel. Even if you did try to speak loudly, it would carry only a short distance.
This has a very palpable calming effect, evident both in yourself and in the body language of those around you. Just as it’s socially unacceptable to run through a public library, so you wouldn’t, mustn’t, leg it through Northfields ticket hall. A brisk walk is at the limit of what is permissible. There aren’t any notices proclaiming as much; you just know it to be so. The building is its own watchman. Look, even the telephones have vanished:
The rejuvenating, unhurried atmosphere of Northfields makes it a brother in spirit of Turnpike Lane. You won’t be surprised to hear they were both designed by the same man (yes, him again).
The exterior is compelling in a different way: more commanding than consoling, and nowhere near as intimidating, crumbling or trussed-up as your traditional place of worship:
Outside, a bright, sharp statement of modernism, bristling with charm and immediacy.
Inside, a cooled, dimmed sanctuary between where you’ve been and what’s to come.
Cue Philip Larkin:
It pleases me to stand in silence here;
A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
Absolutely love the airy look and feel of the outer Tube stations. Such a contrast from the rat maze feel of the Zone 1 stations.
That stained glass roundel window is stunning. Wonderful architecture; we owe a lot to Holden and his compatriots