Inside Crossrail’s First Station

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From Pick and Holden’s Piccadilly Line mockups at Earls Court to the relatively recent work on the Jubilee Line Extension, full size mockups have long been considered a crucial part of the station design process in London. A full size mockup allows issues of material and placement to be assessed in an environment that is as close to reality as possible, and allows the designers to try to discover issues of maintenance access or of passenger flow between train and platform that it is too easy to miss on paper.

Crossrail has long been expected to follow this design tradition. What may come as a surprise to many however is that, in fact, it already has. Sitting in a large warehouse in Bedfordshire is Crossrail’s very first station.

Roughly 20m by 10m, the mockup gives the first real idea as to what will greet Londoners at platform level when Crossrail opens its doors to paying passengers.

It is, of course, by no means a final product – certainly none of the branding here should be taken as anything other than a placeholder – but it is probably a fair representation of the overall design we can expect. It is intended to give an overall idea of how the architectural elements common to each platform (the wall claddings, platform edge doors and other universal furniture) will look and feel.

A few things become immediately clear from the mockup – firstly, that Crossrail’s station bores really are quite large. Pacing out the platforms shows they’re about 1.5m wider than your average Jubilee Line Extension station which, given the circular nature of the platform space, renders the platforms positively cathedral-like (something that’s tricky to convey in photographic form).

IanVisits and a Crossrail Staffer agree to help convey a sense of scale

Secondly, flooring is obviously still to be decided. Look closely at these photos and you’ll spot that the left and right hand sides of this platform are clad in different materials – Granite on the left, Terrazzo on the right. Conversations with Julian Robinson, Head of Stations, reveal that the current intention is to try to lay samples of both within a major station (Victoria being the current target) before any final decision is made.

As can also be seen from the photos, the goal is to keep the main platform as free as possible from clutter. The intention is currently to have lighting, venting and other infrastructure kept in the above-track section. This gives the design a rather impressive sweep.

The panelling on the platforms (where not faux-spraycrete) is glass reinforced concrete, and gives the walls a rather graceful sweep. As always it will be interesting to see whether this survives the need to place adverts and posters. On this subject, Robinson indicated that the current thought was to try to concentrate as much as possible on digital advertising on the line-side wall (on this mockup displaying Crossrail’s blue London skyline logo). He did, however, concede that the wall panelling was being designed to allow sections to be removed and replaced with ad spots if necessary.

One interesting feature of the mockup was the emphasis on LCD display for information beyond advertising. The area above the PEDs is intended to be display space featuring maps and, if the final design remains true to this mockup, service information. This would either complement or replace the traditional over-platform dot matrix displays (whch are currently noticeably absent).

Overall its a very interesting design, and one that manages to convey a feeling of modernity without being too harsh (or too heavy on the brushed concrete and glass). Its clear that Robinson and the Crossrail design team have worked hard to strike a balance between the visual impact of the Jubilee Line Extension and the realities of what will be a very high-traffic line.

A final word of credit should also go to Vinci (who put it together) and 3DD (who fitted it out), for the mockup is an impressive piece of workmanship.

Wooden mouldings used to create the wall panels

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how much of this design makes it to the real-world implementation. Whatever happens, this mockup means that London can at least now start to visualise what it is likely to get.

Written by John Bull