‘London Tube Stations 1924-1961’ charts Charles Holden’s impact on the Underground

‘London Tube Stations 1924-1961’ is a new monograph published by Fuel, on the work of Charles Holden and Frank Pick, who reshaped the graphic identity and spatial perception of the London Underground

London Tube Stations 1924-1961, FUEL Publishing
(Image credit: Philip Butler)

From the 1920s to the 1960s, London Underground led the world in industrial design, branding, architectural coherence and, last but not least, threading an efficient urban mass transit system beneath an ancient, disjointed and geographically diverse city.

‘London Tube Stations 1924-1961’

View of Arsenal Station from new book, London Tube Stations 1924-1961, FUEL Publishing

Charles Holden, Arsenal (Highbury Hill) Station, opened October 1932

(Image credit: Philip Butler)

London Tube Stations 1924-1961 is a visual chronicle of these years, focusing on the remarkable output and legacy of architect Charles Henry Holden. From Arts and Crafts-influenced beginnings, through to experience of designing severe and reverential war memorials, Holden was a gifted architect. In 1923 he met Frank Pick, who had worked his way up from a publicity officer at the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL) to managing director.

Hounslow West Station, image from new book London Tube Stations 1924-1961, FUEL Publishing

Charles Holden, Hounslow West Station, opened July 1931

(Image credit: Philip Butler)

Pick was a firm believer in the power of image and advertising. Under his watch, UERL became London Underground, together with its famous roundel symbol, with a bespoke typeface commissioned from Edward Johnston, and, in 1931, Harry Beck’s iconic tube map.

Ceiling of Hounslow West Station, from new book London Tube Stations 1924-1961, FUEL Publishing

Charles Holden, Hounslow West Station. The heptagonal ticket hall and original bronze chandelier

(Image credit: Philip Butler)

Holden and Pick’s collaboration was a fertile meeting of minds. Extensions to the Northern Line and Piccadilly Line required new stations, often standalone structures that had to advertise their presence far and wide in the midst of shiny new suburbs, as well as provide interchange with buses. Holden’s designs synthesised the clean lines and expressive forms of the nascent Modern Movement with the English vernacular tradition. The two men even toured northern Europe in 1930 to explore the Bauhaus-era aesthetic for themselves.

Tube station exterior at dusk, from new book London Tube Stations 1924-1961, FUEL Publishing

John Easton Murray of Stanley Hall, Easton & Robertson, Loughton Station, 1940

(Image credit: Philip Butler)

True to the spirit of design evangelism, Pick described the process of station building as akin to the long-drawn-out construction of a cathedral, or ‘Medieval Modernism’. The stations have certainly endured, along with the designs inspired by Holden. This monograph, written by Joshua Abbott with new photography by Philip Butler, alongside archive images, chronicles a collaboration that still defines London’s contemporary streetscape. 

London Tube Stations 1924-1961, Philip Butler and Joshua Abbott, FUEL publishers, £24.95, Fuel-Design.com

Also available from waterstones.com and amazon.co.uk

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.