Southwark Tube Roundel on Friday 17th June 2016. (Photo by Tim Dunn)

Neon tube roundels at Southwark

To coincide with the opening of the new Tate Modern extension on 17 June, Art on the Underground and Tate Modern commissioned artist Michael Craig-Martin to design a “reimagined” London Underground roundel at Southwark station.

The roundel is pretty funky: I skipped down there this morning and quite a number of commuters on the platforms seemed to notice that something wasn’t as per normal, although your correspondent was (unsurprisingly) the only one taking photographs and that act seemed to cause more interest than the roundel itself. It is, however, only temporary: it will be taken down and replaced by the standard Southwark station roundels at the end of this weekend.

What makes this roundel interesting is its rarity: whilst there are several replicated along the platform walls, experimenting with the icon that is the London Underground roundel is not something that is sanctioned often. Since introduction in 1908 (and there is a full history of its design story here) there have been design tweaks in its gradual evolution, but it’s rare to find vastly different variations, especially at platform level.

I’ve dug out a few that I’ve seen: if you know of other intriguing ones, do get in touch with the team on Facebook or Twitter.

Experimental tube roundel at Oxford Circus on the Victoria Line, 1972.
An experimental version of an illuminated station name sign for Oxford Circus on the Victoria Line. The central area of the roundel is coloured yellow in this version, and was not taken forward into further production. (Unknown photographer, 1972 Image no: 600-15-6 Inventory no: 2002/910)

 

Early solid disc roundel, Covent Garden station
Early solid disc roundel, Covent Garden station (Photographed by Hugh Robertson, 2000 Location: Westminster WC2 Image no: 600-15-5 Inventory no: 2002/17777)
Moorgate Metropolitan Railway Tube Station Roundel
From mid-1914, the Metropolitan Railway introduced its own version of the Underground roundel. This originally appeared as a blue station name plate across a red diamond. This replica is one of several installed at Moorgate for the “Tube 150” celebrations in 2013. (Picture by Tim Dunn).
New Tate Modern tube roundels along Southwark station platforms.
New Tate Modern tube roundels along Southwark station platforms. (Photo by Tim Dunn on 17th June 2016)
New extension of the Tate Modern. Pic: Tim Dunn
The reason for the neon-bright sign is the new extension of the Tate Modern. Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, it is approximately 15 minutes’ walk from Southwark tube station. Picture by Tim Dunn, May 2016.

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