Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing. This pre-war classic has three and a half million passengers passing through it each year.
Although I am always saying that I’m a cockney (in fact Bow Bells weren’t repaired until 6 years after my birth), I might have been born in Fitzrovia but my childhood was spent in a leafy suburb in North London.
[A]t school the highlight of the week was swimming lessons; not taught in an open-air unheated pool but a beautiful Art Deco swimming baths, a sister to the building opposite – Arnos Grove Station.
Arnos Grove Station is widely regarded as one of architect Charles Holden’s finest works, it was designed soon after London Transport headquarters at 55 Broadway, itself an innovative office block, was completed.
Holden and Frank Pick between them gave us the Underground we know today. Holden’s belief was that his work should:
“ . . . throw off its mantle of deceits; its cornices, pilasters, mouldings . . .”
The two men had toured Europe together to observe the latest innovations in the design of public buildings prior to the northern extension to the Piccadilly Line.
Opening in 1932 Holden described his creations simply as “brick boxes with concrete lids”.
That may be so but its elegant simplicity with towering vertical windows and perfect symmetry Holden shaped a building that was different from anything that had gone before in London. It’s very impressive and yet somehow its harmonious design makes for an almost gentle pleasing form.
Frank Pick would visit his newly completed stations ensuring that nothing would detract from the clean unobstructed Art Deco lines. Alas most of that has now gone Arnos Grove is surrounded by street furniture and inside signage has broken up the clear verticals of Holden’s design.
In 2011 Arnos Grove Station along with its sister station Oakwood was uprated from a Grade II listing to Grade II*, the category reserved for ’particularly important buildings of more than special interest’.
This is in part due to architectural critic Jonathan Glancey who has written at length on the merits of Arnos Grove Station and put it in his 12 greatest modern buildings of the world, alongside the Sydney Opera House and the Empire State Building. He might like to consider the Arnos Pool.
Main picture: Julian Osley CC BY-SA 2.0; Clutter around Arnos Grove Station: Christine Matthews CC BY-SA 2.0; Arnos pool: Alan Myers CC BY 2.0