Architecture: Transports of design over and underground

Within weeks Londoners should be riding the Jubilee Line Extension. One man had the job of co-ordinating the design of its striking new stations, and meeting the needs of travellers and local people.

WHEN PETER Mandelson presented Roland Paoletti with the Best Client of the Year award at the Royal Institute of Architects last year, he quipped: "I hope to be collecting this award myself next year." Well the "Dome Secretary" has gone, but Roland Paoletti is still here, overseeing the 11 designer underground stations that he commissioned for the Jubilee Line Extension (JLE) against considerable odds.

In November he hopes to be out of a job - one that began seven years ago when he was brought from Hong Kong to set up the JLE in-house team of architects and designers. November is when all his stations should be complete and the new 16km Tube should be up and running - but that is up to the civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, not the architects.

The problem for them, as Paoletti reminded me, is that the new line is an extension of the existing Underground. Old rolling stock restricts designs. If platforms are narrow, that's because the tunnel is narrow. If the network were to be constructed today, tunnels would be made much wider to carry bigger trains and more people. A new signalling system - to carry 24 trains an hour rather than the current fixed-point method that allows 17 - must be activated, but Westinghouse has hit trouble installing it. The need for a faster flow of trains has turned the JLE into a contentious political issue, as well as an engineering one.

Paoletti hand-picked the architects for the 11 stations in this pounds 43m project, that he calls "a symbiosis of architecture and engineering". He'd read architecture at Manchester University at the same time as Norman Foster, and yes, he did sign him up to deliver the Canary Wharf station, but other architects - Ian Ritchie, Chris Wilkinson, Will Alsop, even Richard MacCormac of MacCormac Jamieson and Prichard - have made their reputations for their stations.

One essential element Paoletti insisted on, despite delays and expense, was organising station tunnels so passengers travel directly on just two levels to their platforms, rather than zigzagging miserably up and down corridor routes.

The first to open last month was Stratford's steel ribbed glass concourse by Chris Wilkinson, then Will Alsop's cavernous cathedral station at North Greenwich. Norman Foster's Canary Wharf will open in in late summer - it will be the busiest station used by up to 40,000 people in the rush hour - as will Canada Water (a posthumous work by Ron Heron), Bermondsey (Ian Ritchie) and Waterloo (Paoletti's team).

London Bridge (Weston Williamson), but Southwark (MacCormac, Jamieson and Prich- ard) will take longer for technical reasons. London Bridge has electrical engineering problems; Southwark is the most beautiful of all, with daylight beamed down 17m and refracted within by a vast blue glass wall by Alex Beleschenko, but it's had various difficulties.

The contractors initially rejected all 600 glass triangles for the glass wall claiming that they would not pass the fire test. When it was proved they would - they had not applied the right procedures to test it - the wall went up and the Royal Ballet wanted to put on a ballet there. But by then the viaduct's Victorian extension was leaking water, delaying the installation of the final two escalators linking the four platforms to Rail Track. So the contractors cancelled the ballet performance.

No wonder Roland Paoletti chose architects for their understanding of engineering, though it wasn't technical considerations alone that made him do that, rather that "form comes from understanding engineering fundamentals".

But sometimes the learning curve has been difficult for both architects and engineers. "Architects poking their noses into tunnels can offend engineers - there are conventions in the tunnelling business," he admits, "And layout, for architects the most important planning of the space, is done by the lowest of the low in the pecking order of mechanical and structural, and electrical engineers."

Take Alsop's platform at North Greenwich, hanging in space. The long gallery suspended in space is as simple as cutting away the floors on either side to expose an Indiana Jones walkway - but only if you have done your calculations.

The impact upon the lives of residents as well as commuters is another concern of Paoletti's. It his passionate belief that only by new travel routes into decaying areas will the life of their residents improve and business follow. "Look at Canary Wharf," he points out. The realisation of those stations along the line demands the coordinated activities of many teams in politics, planning, design, finance and construction, and the result affects the entire community. In his heightened social awareness, Roland Paoletti is an old fashioned modernist. His desire to make life better for the commuters, as well as the people who live there, is compelling.

Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the new bus station by Eva Jiricna adjoining Canada Water, the first on the new line to fall in the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) area. Jiricna's elegant design for a bus shelter, with two great pterodactyl wings of steel and glass falling from a central spine supported gracefully on five columns, is a masterpiece of engineering.

Her bridge for maintenance access, skewed crazily on the top, slews away from the great glass drum that is Ron Heron's design for the Canada Water underground station. Bus shelters have never been given the designer treatment lavished on phone boxes, despite the fact that over three million Londoners take the bus daily.

The locals initially took against both bus and tube stations. They peppered it with air guns and set up vociferous committees. This transport interface had to act as an interface in more ways than the team anticipated. On one side there is expense-account living in twee turretted homesteads by the marina built by LDDC. On the other there are two lonely tower blocks of council housing. Only by dealing with their fears that the area would change, and by giving the residents a beautiful building and laying on coaches from the bus station to take residents from the tower blocks to shop, did Roland Paoletti persuade them that it would work. Now the station has opened, the residents are rightly proud of it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor