May 2005

When Is A Bus Station Not A Bus Station? Go To Vauxhall Cross And Please Take Your Skis

A couple of weeks ago on a spring sunny afternoon, I was invited to my friend's boisterous 'Leaving the UK' party. The soiree just happened to be opposite the MI6 building on dizzy heights of the 7th floor. I felt as if I was on a set of the next James Bond movie. And by fluke, a stone's throw from the one and only ex-con, Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare's gaff. Maybe JA was also having one of his notorious shepherd's pie and Krug get-togethers!

The reason for this graphic architectural build up is, right in front of my eyes in the metropolis and before carefully navigating the jumble of road crossing is South London's latest extraordinary stainless-steel British bus station in Vauxhall Cross. One might say, what is so captivating about this structure? Well this bustling bus station has a projecting ski-slope roof that is double-decker height, is floodlit and - wait for it - the lighting that marks the entrance of the Tube station is programmable to keep the passengers' outlook favourable in the atmospheric rays.... and that only for starters.

I can just hear our avid Hot Gossip UK readers all singing as one, the Beatles hit song (from the White Album 1968), Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, in cultural happiness that something truly inspirational has occurred right in the centre of traffic misery and congestion charge hell, the ski-slope roof is a beacon of arty, photovoltaic cells slanted in the direction the sun to attract energy. That will generate 30% of the power and electricity for the station's lighting. An added bonus is the ripple line effect of the roof, is a kind of "route master" that mirrors the maps of the London Underground and bus itineraries.

Arup Associates (established 1963), the architects' £4 million project began in 2002 after a competition commissioned by Transport for London, London Buses and the Cross River Partnership. Vauxhall is not one of the most genial parts of town, a hybrid of high-flying city works and London's down and outs who face each other daily. To this end Arup has worked with the Metropolitan Police to make sure the bus station is straightforward for the public to use, but also designed give off a local feel. It seems to me, if scrubbed regularly, it would be remarkably easy to keep clean and hygienic and to be as crime, and drug-free as possible.

I use London's public transport services daily, and anything that brightens the journey sounds good to me.

Eduardo Paolozzi-Tottenham Court Road Tube Station

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, who died last month at the age of 81, was an inventive, prolific artist and founder of the British pop art movement. He participated in the famous "This is Tomorrow" exhibition in London in 1956 and he was also very well known for his coloured sculptures made out of toys. He worked a lot of his time from his studio in Chelsea.

Part of his public art output included the vivid mosaic decoration work on the platforms and circulating areas in Tottenham Court Road Underground Station which millions of travellers pass through. Paolozzi was specially commissioned when the station was refurbished in the 1980s.


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