Tag Archives: Stanley Heaps

The power of sevenYou can find beauty through scale on the Underground: noisy, powerful treats, things that soar and sparkle and make great play of doing an awfully marvellous job over an awfully marvellous area. But you can also find beauty through delicacy, where it’s not so much the size that dazzles but the details. Where less is more.

The interior of the ticket hall at Hounslow West is a bountiful treasure trove of detail. Its contents reward both the passing glance and the lingering stare. From the concept of the design to the hue of the fittings, it’s adorable – to the 128.5714286th degree.

A visit ought to be on the curriculum of every GCSE Maths and Design student, regardless of what any education secretary thinks of these kinds of buildings.

Heaps of enjoymentLight, geometry, colour, architecture, iconography, upholstery and style: the seven pillars of this heptagonal hall of wonder.

Two more Hs were involved in its creation: Holden (Charles) and Heaps (Stanley) worked together in a rare collaboration on the station, which opened in July 1931 – the same month as Sudbury Town. What a feast for the eyes of Piccadilly line passengers.

It’s as much the interaction of all the different features as the concept itself that makes this place so enchanting. There must be dozens of heptagons in total, in both two and three dimensions, which jostle and jive alongside each other as if at a polygon-themed disco. The bright blues and reds of the roundels offset exquisitely the muted tones of the walls and ceiling, and are as gorgeous as any jewel to be found in Hatton Garden. And just look at those shadows:

Hip-tagonalCould the exterior of Hounslow West possibly match the bewitching poise of its interior? You know the answer to that question. And it merits a separate blog entry to boot.

Oak, hey!There’s no burned oak at Burnt Oak. There’s not much to the station either, which is a squat pavilion a bit like Brent Cross and Hendon Central, only not as noble or elegant. What there is, however, is a roundel on a pole.

That might not sound much, but believe me, when you’re standing outside Burnt Oak station with 95% of your vision choked up with tat, grot and litter, it’s a revelation.

Even the design of the pole is appealing. It’s vaguely Eiffel-esque, with the struts climbing upwards in a pleasingly ordered fashion, tapering inwards towards the centre of a satisfyingly chunky roundel. The very top looks a bit like a flagpole, but how you’d raise anything up it is a mystery. Although given the whole structure already raises the spirits, I’d argue no further kinds of elevation are necessary.

There’s an added treat when you’re down on the platforms. A gap in the bridges overhead reveals a glimpse of the pole, which from this angle looks even more commanding.

It almost makes up for the station’s gratingly archaic name. There’s really no call for words ending “rnt” nowadays.

Up the pole

A grand Central stationThis grandest of all grand Central stations looks out over a thunderously bustling intersection of roads, shops, subways and services. You emerge from its elegant collonade and delicate motifs into an environment that is anything but.

It’s just about possible to appreciate the idea behind the birthplace of modern Hendon, but the reality has been long since battered into submission. Best to linger a little longer among the pillars, especially if the weather’s on the turn.

Heaps of entertainmentI lived round here for two years and trained myself to co-exist with the noise. For the traffic never stops. One night there was a power cut and I went on to the roof of my building to see how much of the area was affected. Even though it was 3am the roads were still busy.

Three lanes of vehicles sweep down from one direction en route to Brent Cross and the North Circular Road. They charge past the other way heading out towards the M1. Bisecting them comes traffic to and from Golders Green and Kingsbury. A greater contrast with the surroundings of Hendon Central’s neighbouring station, Brent Cross, it is difficult to imagine. Yet both were designed by the same person, Stanley Heaps, and share if not a sympathetic location then a stubborn beauty.

Winter wonder-grand

I can vouch personally for how welcoming that entrance could be during winter.

It’s not a building that dominates or defines its surroundings in the same manner as its nearby sister. It cannot compete for attention with what has become an enormously intimidating adjacent road junction.

But this lends the station a rather attractive melancholy feel. Its greatness is now tinged with sadness. Hendon Central is becoming evermore a sentinel, isolated from everything around it by nature of its style and purpose, yet guarding a gateway to a more decorous way to travel.

It hasn’t always been like this. There are probably people still alive who’d say they can remember when Hendon Central was all fields. And they wouldn’t be lying.