From Russia to Redbridge: Moscow influenced Gants Hill Tube station ‘worthy of being listed’
PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 July 2015
Almost seven million people walked through Gants Hill Underground station last year, yet probably very few know its unique status amongst London architecture.
While the outside is an unexciting roundabout, the barrel vaulted halls of the concourse between the two platforms take influence from the lavish stations of the Moscow Metro.
It was originally designed by modernist architect Charles Holden in the 1930s, but not complete until 1947 due to material shortages during the Second World War.
Joshua Abbott, author of the Modernism in Metroland blog, explained: “The influence by the Moscow Metro came in 1936 when Holden went out to Moscow as a consultant.
“He gave his advice and brought back some of their ideas.”
Holden drew up plans for stations on the Northern and District Lines as well as the Hainault Loop on the Central Line.
Mr Abbott says Gants Hill is far more aesthetic than some of Holden’s other more functional and modernist designs in the borough, such as Wanstead and Redbridge stations.
Joe Kerr, head of the Royal College of Art’s critical & historical studies programme, says he thinks the Moscow influence could be legend.
“It is more a looks like story, but he may have thought about Moscow, I am happy to believe it.
“It does take away slightly from what a magnificent architect Holden was in his own right.”
Both experts however agree on Gants Hill’s distinctive qualities.
Mr Kerr said: “What is amazing about it is that there cannot be many buildings in London that have no exterior whatsoever.
“You go down a simple stair case and find yourself in this beautiful space.
Mr Kerr, who drives the 123 bus from Tottenham to Hainault Street, Ilford, at weekends, continued: “It is about making the public realm a decent place and celebrating it.”
Mr Abbott said the station was “certainly unique”, adding “there are not any others that in that style in London”.
Whilst some of the borough’s modernist buildings, such as Newbury Park bus garage, have been listed, Gants Hill Underground station remains unprotected.
Mr Abbott said: “I do think Gants Hill is worthy of being listed. It is unique among Holden’s stations due to the Moscow Metro influenced platform design and lack of surface buildings.”
The department for media, culture and sport guidelines state a building can be listed for the importance of its architectural design.
Mr Kerr concurred: “I absolutely support the listing of Gants Hill and I’m quite sure it would get it.”
He added: “Gants Hill should be very proud of its most secret building.”
Other modernism in Redbridge
Newbury Park station was designed by Oliver Hill in 1949.
It stands out for the modernist copper-covered barrel-vaulted bus depot at the entrance.
Modernism, in contrast to expansive Victorian architecture, saw designs based on function over looks. Joe Kerr, of the Royal College of Art, said: “Newbury Park is a beautiful combination of Underground and bus station.”
The building won the Oliver Hill Festival of Britain Design Award in 1951. It is Grade II listed.
Redbridge Underground station was part of the New Works programme, started in the 1930s and delayed by the war.
It was designed by Charles Holden, and finished in 1947. Holden initially intended to build a glass tower which would be permanently lit, but post-Second World War shortages meant this became impossible.
Redbridge and Wanstead’s designs were influenced by a trip Holden and his boss Frank Pick went on in 1930, around Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, to see Europe’s most modern architecture.
It is Grade II listed.
Wanstead Underground station, also designed by Charles Holden, was started in the 1930s but delayed by the Second World War.
Material shortages affected the building which, similar to Redbridge, was supposed to have a glass, not concrete, tower.
Wanstead is not a listed building.