August 10, 2012

Horse 1345 - In Search Of The Roundels

What we are looking at in this photograph as indicated in the bottom right hand corner is a photograph of Town Hall Station which was taken the day before the opening on 27th February 1932. What makes this photograph particularly interesting is the use of the "roundels" which were used as station signs. Similar roundels were used at Wynyard and a photograph of one of those is shown below (courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum's collection).

Whilst these two photographs show an interesting glimpse of the subterranean past of this swirling metropolis we call Sydney, I think that they show something far more sinister.

Although Sydney has quite a number of attractive buildings, far too often, when things are being refurbished, they are simply destroyed or swept aside like so many scraps of waste paper, strewn to the dustbin of history. Newtown station is currently undergoing an "upgrade" and its replacement is a steel and glass affair which is being built with the bottom line in mind rather than any aesthetic value.

Town Hall and Wynyard stations themselves are cases in point. Town Hall had a concourse upgrade in the early 1980s but the now aging tile work looks, faded, out of place and drab; meanwhile Wynyard received a colour scheme in the same upgrade program but was treated to two very dour shades of brown. In both cases the steel formwork from which the stations are built are clearly visible, which gives both of them a forlorn industrial sort of look; reminiscent of long closed factories. Presumably they were originally going to receive the same sort of cladding as either Museum or St James before the depression hit and the then Premier of New South Wales, Sir Bertram Stevens, handed the power of income tax to the Federal Government; so perhaps this explains why there wasn't very much to preserve in the first place.

Currently the stations signs at Town Hall and Wynyard are the same as most other stations in Sydney. They are blue and white rectangular things which I suppose look unified from the aspect of maintaining corporate unity and identity, but again they are merely industrial pieces, which are cold and uninspiring. The sign for Town Hall is very very anonymous and could easily be for any suburb in Sydney.

I am very much jealous of other networks around the world such as the London Underground, the Paris Metro and the Moscow Metro (the Moscow Metro is possibly the grandest and most gorgeous  railway systems ever invented) but again it makes me wonder why if Sydney wants to hold itself out as a World City, why it settles for second best when it shows itself off.
Even I concede that whist I don't much care for the The Opera House, it was built and approved by a group of town planners who were looking forwards and trying to make a statement about the city. Recently during the Olympic Games in London, one of the newest additions to the skyline is 30 St Mary Axe which is better known as "The Gherkin". I think that for what it is, it deserves to stand on that site equally as long as the Royal Albert Hall or even the buildings of Christopher Wren, so that's not to say that modern architecture is all bad.

I suppose that what I'm trying to say is that although we needn't necessarily try to ape other underground networks around the world, it seems to me that pieces of infrastructure which are used by possibly a million commuters a week between them, that Town Hall and Wynyard stations should be made a little more friendly, more cosy and not so much restored to their former glory but beautified to reach the potential which they never saw.


Anonymous said...

nobody cares because nobody expects Barry to do anything

NSW Govt does nothing forever

Anonymous said...

The roundels at Town Hall station have just been reinstalled following the refurbishment of the platforms. Hopefully they do the same at Wynyard.