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Going underground \

Julian Robinson and Russell Brown consider the relationship between architecture and engineering in Hawkins\Brown's series of projects for Crossrail, currently reshaping this London Underground infrastructure.

When Crossrail is complete in 2018 there will be 9 stations in its central section, and Hawkins\Brown are delivering the detail design for three of them – Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street and Liverpool Street – so they must be doing something right. Julian Robinson, Head of Architecture at Crossrail, and Russell Brown explain what they think the architect can bring to an engineering led infrastructure project such as Crossrail.

“Hawkins\Brown has considered Tottenham Court Road Station as the busiest art gallery in London, with a daily footfall of 150,000, it has 10 times the audience of Tate Modern. We are working with the legacy of Edward Paolozzi's murals, the best-known artwork on the tube system. To this ‘Art on the Underground’ are adding the work of Daniel Buren, famous for his striking striped compositions. Crossrail has also unveiled plans to create a permanent line-wide arts programme across eight of its new central and east London stations. At Tottenham Court Road station we will be collaborating with an artist from the Gagosian Gallery to further enrich the legacy of art within the station. The Underground is a truly civic space, an authentic London experience where locals and tourists are packed together. The architecture of these spaces needs to live up to their expectations.

We are now working on Crossrail Stations at Liverpool Street and Bond Street completing the detail design on stations designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects and John McAslan + Partners. Each new entrance (they all have at least two) has a special identity that reflects their particular neighbourhoods. The Bond Street ticket hall will be upmarket, classic and formal, the Soho entrance in Dean Street will be dark, cinematic and nocturnal, while Tottenham Court Road is bright, colourful reflecting the 1960s iconography of Centre Point.

We work really hard to shape these massive engineering shells, designed in collaboration with Grimshaw into a daily experience that is exciting, urbane, user friendly and reassuring with the addition of a little art and artifice to make you stop and think.

We have been working with Crossrail for 21 years, from the day Roger's first child was born (and he is just graduating as an architect). This long-term commitment takes patience, determination and an enthusiasm that the Crossrail stations really can rival the great works of Victorian railway engineering.”

Russell Brown, Founding Partner, Hawkins\Brown

“There is a close and in many ways symbiotic relationship between engineering and architecture in the design of underground railways. As Ove Arup once observed: ‘What the engineer sees as structure, the architect sees as sculpture. Actually, of course, it is both.’

Crossrail recognises that this relationship enables architects to have a significant and important influence on the creation of high quality Crossrail infrastructure. Client bodies such as Crossrail must select architects that have a clear appreciation of heavy civil and complex systems engineering, and who will do more than simply apply a superficial skin to a series of underground pipes.

The role of the architect is to tackle problematic urban and environmental requirements; to enable the granting of development consent; to grapple with complex technical design interfaces, and to tame civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and systems engineering requirements into an ordered, structured, functioning and pleasing passenger environment that puts people first – both the passenger and the operator, whilst assisting realistic engineering and safe construction.

To get the best out of an architectural team the client design and technical quality aspiration must be unambiguous and must challenge the design team to provide a solution that successfully balances time, cost and quality. Architects in particular bring quality to what people see, touch and use in underground stations that have to be built to last many generations. Perhaps the crucial role for the architect, beyond interface management and design coordination, is to act as the design quality conscience because, as Sir Henry Royce once famously advocated, quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”

Julian Robinson, Head of Architecture at Crossrail

‘What the engineer sees as structure, the architect sees as sculpture. Actually, of course, it is both.’

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