London Bridge - A station for the 21st Century - Maynard

London Bridge – A station for the 21st Century

For the past 18 months, two members of the Maynard team have taken up residency at London Bridge, the City’s oldest and most complex train station.

LuV_AD_Image

The re-development of the station is a complex one and as such, Lauren van Uden and Alex Dale have set up shop there both working closely with Grimshaw, the project architects.

Lauren and Alex have extensive experience in working on high profile projects such as this and collectively have brought their knowledge of industrial and information design to the table.

Here we ask them for the lowdown on this iconic project.

What are your individual roles on the project?
LvU: Industrial designer for signage and wayfinding product family.

AD: Senior signage and wayfinding designer

What issues has the project faced?
LvU: The complexity of designing and building a new station, at the scale of London bridge, while keeping the existing station in use is very complex. Drawings for demolition, temporary condition and final condition creates three times the work required in comparison to a new build.

AD: The big challenge for the project as a whole is keeping the station running while bits are demolished and rebuilt. It bends my mind even thinking about it. The temporary wayfinding alone could keep somebody in a very busy full-time job, the amount of quick change that happens as people are routed and rerouted around bits of station that are being rebuilt.

What does a typical day look like?
LvU: The London Bridge construction site works round the clock 24/7 so at the start of the day it is always interesting to see what has been built while most people are asleep. My day predominantly consists of developing and drawing design details, checking interface updates and discussing the designs with the various teams; architectural, structural, MEP, and procurement.

AD: A typical day for me means finishing pieces of work, maintaining ongoing work and originating new stuff. To do these usually means at least one meeting of some sort, whether it’s a formal presentation or an informal catch-up round a table. This can be with the client, in this case Network Rail, or any number of other collaborators, not least my colleague Lauren. There is always a certain amount of drawing, either concepts or finished drawings. During the beginning of the project there was also a lot of reading; briefing documents, standards, background research. I also like to watch the station being used, when I can, just to remind myself what the real world looks like. The problem is out there, not at your desk!

What unique facts have you learnt about the station?
LvU: The sprawling labyrinth of arches under the station platforms are of varying sizes and spans. This highlights their age of construction, the smaller arches are more often older than larger arches. With the development of new construction methods people became more confident to make larger arches.

AD: London Bridge is an unusual station, in that there are through tracks and terminating tracks. There are surprisingly few other stations like this in the country. For me, this is interesting as it is a commuter station; people come in from all over the South East, change at London Bridge, and make onward journeys to other parts of London. I find that fascinating, as the station feels like one of the four corners of London.

How many teams of people are inputting on the project?
LvU: The project is divided into various design teams who work on specific station areas; platforms and canopies; western arcade; street concourse; terminus concourse; facades; service spine; back of house and urban realm. Each of these teams have sub teams of engineers, designers, project managers, procurement etc. The complexity of the signage and wayfinding is that it is station wide and therefore coordinates with all teams and sub teams.

AD: Too many to count! Architects, engineers, accessibility consultants, project managers, local government, train operators … I’m sure there are more I can’t think of. An amazing number of specialisms; operations, pedestrian flow modellers, acoustic teams …

From a wayfinding perspective, what issues have you faced?
LvU: The wayfinding design is to have less signs but bigger. Proposing large signs less often is new to Network Rail and therefore the size of the signs have not been installed before. Achieving the loading and operational requirements while keeping an elegant design solution has proved difficult at times.

AD: A particularly novel challenge of this project, for me, was trying to make sure people use escalators safely. Network Rail have put a strong emphasis on reducing accidents on escalators, and the new station has more escalators than the old one, so that’s quite a tall order. The obvious strategy is to make sure that more people use the lifts, but this poses the questions of how to get this result, and of what can signage do to achieve this. My hunch was that there were objective and subjective factors to the problem; the visibility of the lifts in the first instance, but also making sure that people subjectively relate the lifts to their immediate task and feel entitled to use them. We have come up with quite a few different kinds of signage that are intended to make the lifts relatable; to dissuade people from escalators, alert them to the availability of lifts, and make sure they feel invited to use them.

When will the re-developed station open?
LvU: First platforms open March 31st, hooray! The signage will predominantly be temporary condition at this stage.

AD: As Zager and Evans so memorably put it, In the Year 2525. I’m kidding. The finished station will open in 2018.

Are the public getting in the way?
LvU: Most passengers seem oblivious to the demolition and concrete pilling that is going on behind the site hoardings. There have been a few days of disruption to the public but Network rail are working hard to keep this to a minimum.

LvU: Most passengers seem oblivious to the demolition and concrete pilling that is going on behind the site hoardings. There have been a few days of disruption to the public but Network rail are working hard to keep this to a minimum.

How have you worked with old and new planning standards?
LvU: As an industrial designer I have not been involved in the planning.

AD: This was another especially interesting part of the project, for me at least. The start of any project means finding what standards are in use, and then establishing whether these criteria are still fit for purpose. The Network Rail signage standard has some quirks, particularly when it comes to signing accessible routes, which made it difficult to apply directly to some of the scenarios at the redeveloped London Bridge. I made some proposals to Network Rail of ways to make the routes clearer, to which they were quite receptive.

How have you coped with the unusual situation of connecting and terminating journeys?
LvU: The through platforms and terminating platforms are at different levels. This helps passengers arriving to see across platforms when looking to connect to an onward journey. At street level the platform numbers are big and bold, emphasising the choices available to passengers. The architecture also enhances the separation with a vertical column that spans from platform to street level.

AD: We put in a lot of analysis of how people will use the station to connect from one train to another. I relied on some very useful projected figures from Network Rail of how the station will be
used once it is fully reopened. These helped a lot to visualise the routes through the station, the primary axes along which people travel, and in turn where signage and screens needed to go.

Has the new Shard development created any site issues due to its proximity?
LvU: Engineers who worked on the Shard are also working on the platforms and canopies team. This has enabled shared knowledge of details to ensure the station design compliments the existing.

AD: Not for me. There are a lot of limousines knocking around, although this is hardly a problem.

Alex and Lauren, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

AD: It was my pleasure. You can take your hand off my knee now.

Project / London Bridge

BACK