Metroland Art Deco

Rayners Lane tube station

Rayners Lane tube station

Rayners Lane tube station
Architect: Charles Holden (1936)
Drawing: Charles Holden (1936)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection

Metroland is in transition. Rayners Lane’s ranks of half-timbered shops clash with a bold intruder – a replacement, much enlarged underground station by the brilliant Charles Holden (1875- 1960). Holden deserves to be better known. A contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, he too produced buildings of great originality, and, unlike his Scottish counterpart, enjoyed a much longer professional career. Stylistically his buildings are difficult to categorise. But large or small, his buildings stand proud, distinguishable from their neighbours by a strong feeling of mass and line

Holden is best known for his work for London Underground in the 1920s and 1930s, when his office – Adams, Holden and Pearson – designed a series of underground stations of startling originality, like this at Rayners Lane. These play with basic geometry and volumes, and gain effect from the contrast of forms and materials, not decorative excess. In fact, this drawing resembles the architecture itself: both are pared down. People, with their precise shadows, animate the building, not sculpture. Perhaps this architectural purity was regarded as excessive: it has been noted that the main hall of the station should have the addition of windows on either side.

Despite the novelty of Holden’s additions, this modern dream has now become a lost world. The underground dominates this scene. Cars and buses are few and far between. Pedestrians casually saunter, some even linger in the road. Holden’s neat vision, architecturally and socially, is now much compromised.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

Top of page