Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mind the gap

"Stand away from the platform edge - this train is not scheduled to stop at this station". A familiar announcement to many of us - but there are underground stations around the world at which trains are never scheduled to stop.

The reasons for their abandonment vary but include evaporating funding, low levels of usage and incompatibility with redevelopment plans. In the article, Tom Moran (editor of Urban Ghosts), argues: "For me, what makes abandoned subways more compelling than other subterranean infrastructure is the fact that they were built to cater for large crowds of people – unlike sewers and utility tunnels – and thus contain all the necessary features of a public space, from fire escapes to ornate signage and advertising on the walls. It’s that missing human element that makes them more eerie". He's not wrong.

And neither is he wrong when he comments on what makes abandoned subway stations unique compared to other abandoned buildings: "Other than filling them in, you can’t really demolish an underground ghost station. So, while many surface buildings often meet the wrecking ball, ghost stations live on in a sort of weird afterlife, out of sight and out of mind (of most people, at least) but very much in existence".

Will it be a bad thing if they're brought back into the public consciousness in London, by being turned into tourist attractions? Drew Reed's article appears to side with the urban explorers, who favour preservation over renovation. While I can understand the distaste for transforming (and commercialising) the spaces, it does nevertheless seem a bit odd to give such value to the preservation of places that most people can and will never see.

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

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