If you’ve visited London’s Tottenham Court Road underground station lately, you might have noticed that it’s not looking its best. Down on the plaforms, the walls are stripped to bare concrete. Those with longer memories may remember that the walls were once covered in bright mosaics by the artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, like this one on a Northern line platform:
Image: Sunil060902 at Wikimedia Commmons.
Most of the mosiacs have been removed for now, but will be painstakingly reinstallled later in the renovation process.
Two walls of mosaic, however, are facing a longer-term threat, and now a heritage society has launched a campaign to save them. From the Evening Standard:
Heritage group The Twentieth Century Society has demanded urgent talks with the architects behind the £400 million station redevelopment.
The society fears that two “essential and integral” elements of the collection of Paolozzi works — a double set of tiled arches over the escalators in the main concourse and a large decorative panel at the entrance to the south side of Oxford Street — will be demolished.
Roger Hawkins, one of the station’s architects, told Architects’ Journal:
The arches are no longer needed because they are not supporting anything …There will be a modern, daylit, space there five times as large.
Short of redrawing the entire plan, then, it’s not clear how the mosaics could be preserved. The most likely compromise might be for them to be removed and donated to the Paolozzi Foundation, or reinstalled elsewhere.
Plans for the shiny new station also show a new set of tilings for some of the station’s walls by artist Daniel Buren, known for his bright, geometric designs. This mock-up, however, is distinctly colourless, especially when compared to Paolozzi’s hyperactive version:
Looks like it’s out with the old, in with the monochrome.
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