[NetBehaviour] London's Underground - Edwardian Tile Patterns.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Jul 31 01:58:56 CEST 2006

London's Underground - Edwardian Tile Patterns.

 From the 1860s London had two growing sub-surface Underground railways, 
those of the Metropolitan and District. Deep-level ‘tubes’, in the form 
of the City & South London Railway and Central London Railway, opened in 
1890 and 1900 respectively. The owners all faced the same problem – how 
to maximise the illumination of their gloomy gas-lit platforms. The only 
answer until then was masses of plain white reflective tiling. However, 
by the turn of the century, with electric lighting improving all the 
time, thoughts of something more than functional came from the world’s 
of art and finance.

LONDON has been the home of the largest, most extensive decorative 
tiling project ever undertaken in Britain – one that arguably helped 
make London’s Underground system the most famous in the world. This site 
offers a small insight into this innovative graphic explosion of design 
and colour.

The tiling of over 90 tube platforms, and associated passageways, 
staircases and surface-level booking halls, probably amounted to the 
largest single creation of decorative art on public display anywhere – 
and arguably the longest and thinnest art gallery in the world. Each 
station had a unique coloured pattern along the entire length of its 
platforms and some of them are reproduced here to give just a small 
flavour of their impact. Platform walls were tiled to over the height of 
a man and were up to 350 feet long – in all some six miles long. For 
some years, station modernization has meant that more and more of these 
polychrome decorations have disappeared for ever. Now only a minority of 
the stations give any idea of their original splendour. For the last 
quarter of a century, diligent and punctilious work has captured them, 
sometimes only days ahead of their disappearance. Some of them have been 
assembled here, so that the dramatic effect can be appreciated in full, 
as never before.


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