Design, Travel

When is an Underground Station not an Underground Station?


[Ian Macready]
One of the new brightly painted entrances to Old Street Tube

When it’s an all new “Platform for Innovation” of course. Underneath Silicon Roundabout someone has had the paint pot out and has been giving the dreary Tube station at Old Street a bit of a makeover. Or should I say turning the tunnels into a “hive of new retail opportunities”. On one level it’s about some clear and much needed colourful signage to help you navigate your way out of the Tube station, and with 8 exits down previously rather dank concrete tunnels , that was not always so easy. But of course as it’s England, that famous nation of shopkeepers, there are lots of new shopping opportunities with trendy new shops (electric bike anyone?) and handsome young men selling you freshly squeezed juice from a pop up market stall. The design work has been carried out by 20 year old retail specialists Tait Design. The idea was originally dreamed up by service design team Live/Work with the aim that this idea can be carried out on a number of Underground Stations to bring them to life, but also with designs that reflect the local area, and importantly to bring in some revenue for the operator. Obviously this all works very well at Old Street which was a pretty miserable station, but at Viewport (where we are huge admirers of the design ethos of London Underground) we are a bit worried that some classic stations may be over run with pop ups and trendy new graphics.

Above ground even the Argos has had a makeover to look more like an Apple Store by Dalziel and Pow ( I could have sworn that was a Yorkshire TV cop show?) but our favourite neighbourhood intervention although completed 8 years ago now, is the walkway by Tonkin Liu called Promenade of Light, with its series of circular planters, benches and tables, which has transformed the neighbourhood. And on a sunny day, even against this busy junction where Old Street meets City Road, it is a very nice spot to eat your sandwich and have a chat (often accompanied by a cigarette) with a work colleague.

Well there you go, that's what it is now.
Another exit, in blue
Useful and clear signage
The simple and clear new map of the station exits
Walking through the tunnels
Obviously an essential free social media workshop
The new shop signage
Man (with eyes closed) selling you juices
It's practically an art installation
Above ground at Silicon Roundabout
The new Argos entrance
Unrecognisable eh? Yes, this is the new look Argos.
The Promenade of Light by Tonkin Liu
The circular planters
One of the benches