Tag Archives: Ken Livingstone

Which is more rare: rain in London or a new Underground station?The name Wood Lane has one resonance and one only: as the home of the palace of glittering delights that is BBC Television Centre. I can’t help thinking that, had Wood Lane station been called not after the road on which it stands but the building opposite which it sits, the Beeb would not be in the process of flogging off one of the country’s cultural powerhouses. Imagine having the name Television Centre immortalised on the Underground map: what finer honour could there be? I still think they made a mistake not renaming Stratford as “Stratford Olympia”. Anyway…

Night lightsWood Lane is stunning, either by night or day. It’s another masterclass in contemporary station architecture by Ian Ritchie, whose work at Bermondsey I’ve already praised. Similar themes and concerns crop up here: an emphasis on space and natural light, a sympathetic layout and ambience, and a celebration not of brick and iron but steel, glass and aluminium. The top of the station is especially striking:

Making a pointUnderneath, the station has been given a frankly enormous entrance, which neatly allows you to see exactly where you need to go and what you need to do to get there, even before you put a foot inside. No plunging, unknowingly, into an oddly-lit and counter-intuitively cramped vestibule (Leslie Green, I’m looking at you).

That't some frontYes, those are viaduct arches inside the station. Fantastic, isn’t it?

Wood Lane began operation in 2008: one of the many projects started by Ken Livingstone, but opened and doted upon by Boris Johnson. I think that particular wheeze is pretty much exhausted now, Boris.

When Television Centre closes in 2013, Wood Lane will cease to be a mustering point for small screen stars, staff and audiences. Instead it will be merely a portal to an anonymous shopping centre. But for those who care, and for those who remember, its name will always and forever mean something else: something unique and very magical.

Every home should have oneIt looks like it was designed by Ken Adam for one of the more opulent Bond films of the 1970s – perhaps as part of Hugo Drax’s jungle lair in Moonraker, or as one of the furnishings inside Stromberg’s undersea base in The Spy Who Loved Me.

In fact this fantastically strident and gleaming phalanx of escalators was designed by Norman Foster, as part of the western entrance to his Docklands masterpiece that is Canary Wharf station:

What's it Wharf?Ken Livingstone pressed the button that first started these escalators whirring, back on 17 September 1999.

I’d argue that they hold their own against each and every one of the area’s many elevated landmarks, if not actually edging them by virtue of sliding in graceful solitude underground rather than jostling for attention in the sky.

Rising up out of the station towards the stunning glass canopy over the entrance, you’re greeted with a view that tells you exactly what kind of world into which you’ve arrived:

Every penny of itAs for the view that greets you when travelling in the opposite direction, as you descend into the immense catacombs of the station itself… that deserves a whole separate entry all to itself.

And cue the orchestra...If anyone were to ever write a musical about the Underground, and were that musical then turned into a big budget film, this would be where the opening number would unquestionably have to take place.

If Wembley is England’s national stadium, then this is England’s national staircase:

Shuffle, hop, stepIt was finished in 2007. I’ve no memory of what was here before, having moved to London in 2006 and only first visited the station soon after the refurbishment was complete. I believe some sort of temporary staircase was thrown up in time for Euro 96, the kind of “temporary” that turns into “10-year residency”.

The Euro 96 connection was rekindled when David Seaman joined Ken Livingstone to officially open the reshaped station building. I love this quote from the former England goalkeeper:

“It’s great to see the Wembley Park Tube station in action today…¬†Wembley Park will certainly be a fans’ favourite.”

There’s no doubt the steps help contribute to an exciting prelude of emotion for anyone heading to a sporting event at the stadium:

This way to national heartache

For those beating a retreat in the opposite direction, however, there’s another treat for the eye: a mammoth, brilliant-white, conical turret soaring high above the steps and into the sky:

Proving a pointIt’s almost enough to turn me into a sports fan.