Connections: A Redesign for Bond Street Station, London

Senior Thesis
Princeton University
Carles Vallhonrat (Advisor), Jesse Reiser (Second Reader)
Fall 2005-Spring 2006

My design proposal for Bond Street Station seeks to rethink and question traditional underground architecture. The London Underground is highly functional, and therefore, circulation drives the organization of space.  Stations exist to link as many people from various points and networks as possible. Underground space serves as the means to connect.  Seen from this perspective, it is understandable why so many of the world’s underground spaces are contained within pipes and tubes. The molecules moving through these channels are mere blips of data recorded in the rate of passenger flow. To an engineer, this condition is the most pragmatic answer to the problem of underground connection. From the perspective of an architect, however, these spaces are dry and stale.  Roland Paoletti, supervising architect of the Jubilee Line Extension in London writes:

In my experience, underground engineers either provide the spatial layouts themselves or all too easily take on board pliable designers with whom they feel comfortable and this all too often produces labyrinthine tunnels and ad hoc formless space, usually encrusted with some mild decoration as a palliative.

Under Paoletti’s leadership, the Jubilee Line Extension project sought to redefine our understanding of underground travel through innovative and dramatic spaces.

The Jubilee Line Extension’s eleven stations vary in size and scope, but each is linked to its neighbor by an innovative use of space. Light is allowed in through generous carvings at surface level. The extension’s grandest station, Canary Wharf, has three glass canopies designed specifically to capture daylight and send it flooding into the ticket hall. The other large stations like Westminster and Canada Water use their vast hollowed-out interiors to give their passengers a sense of scale and point of reference. The monumentality of these spaces dramatizes the experience of travelling underground. As passengers move into and within the station, they cannot help but be inspired by the majesty of the architecture that surrounds them. My thesis follows in the accomplishments of the designers that developed the  Jubilee Line Extension.

My redesign of Bond Street Station solves two existing problems. First is the glaring lack of Underground surface identity along Oxford Street. The roundel is one of the most recognizable graphic symbols in the world.  In today’s competitive environment of high-stakes advertising, however, the roundel is no longer enough to attract the eye. This is especially true at the street entrance to Bond Street Station, where a dilapidated awning hangs flanked by dirty and faded roundels. Compared to the massive Footlocker store on one side, and an entire shopping mall on the other, the Underground presence along this section of Oxford Street is nothing short of a joke. The solution to this problem lies in the creation of an architectural element that sets it apart from its surroundings. By bursting through the street and sidewalks at oblique angles, the warped glass canopies dramatize the act of willfull descension into the ground.

The second problem that currently exists in Bond Street Station is the closed-off nature of its design. The current spatial configuration prevents passengers from understanding how the station is put together.  The restrictive tubes and pipes stifle the journey from one condition to another. I sought to create a space in which the actor could become an observer.  I wanted the passenger to be able to understand his relationship to the Central and Jubilee platforms upon immediate entrance into the station. In order to accomplish these goals, the interior of my design needed to combine easily understood space  with clear and direct passenger routing.

I decided to create a cylinder measuring seventy-five feet in diameter and extrude it ninety feet into the ground (this being the rough distance between street level and the Jubilee line platform). I skewed the cylinder to reflect the way Oxford Street slices through the street grid as well as to increase the perception of spatial depth. Cutting through this cylinder are the platform spaces and their means of connection. Passengers arriving from street level follow a sloping promenade to the ticket hall. After purchasing a ticket, they continue their journey until they reach the platform levels. Escalators slice through this space and are used primarily as a quick means of egress.

Opening the system of circulation allows for the passenger to understand his relationship within the architectural space of the station. The broad ramps allow for a slight meander in the act of willfull descension into the bowels of the station. Passengers are no longer forced to march ahead to their destinations. The open architecture of this system allows for pause and reflection.

(excerpt from thesis text)