Rail Industry Focus


The Culture Line

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/Mar 2014

Christina Andersen, art programme director at Crossrail, talks to RTM about the new ‘Culture Line’ being developed throughout London’s new stations.

Crossrail is already well-known for its emphasis on the local neighbourhoods it passes through, with clear recognition of environmental and social value, job creation and investment in the public realm.

The project’s latest aim is to make travel a beautiful experience – not just a functional one.

Crossrail’s art programme is developing ‘The Culture Line’ to bring art to the railway. Artwork will be displayed inside, and as part of, the seven central stations that are currently at varying stages of construction.

Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Canary Wharf will benefit from a range of designs that seek to turn the railway into an emotive and interesting public space.

RTM spoke to Christina Andersen, art programme director, about the new ‘line’.

Framework for art

The first station to be piloted is Paddington, where Crossrail worked with Lisson Gallery to develop the idea. A long-list of ten artists was chosen from the gallery’s roster, and was shortlisted by a panel of arts representatives, including the Barbican and the GLA Culture Team.

Following this process, three artists were chosen to develop a proposal for the station, and Spencer Finch was announced as the first artist to work with Crossrail last year.

Andersen said: “We realised it was a really good framework to work by, and made sure they worked very closely with the architect, the station designers as well, so that they became integrated into the station design. Since then we’ve developed relationships with other key galleries, and we look to take this forward with the remaining stations.”

In addition to the Lisson, the galleries announced thus far are: White Cube for Bond Street station, Gagosian Gallery for Tottenham Court Road, Sadie Coles HQ for Farringdon, and the Victoria Miro Gallery for Liverpool Street station.

The art programme sits outside of the £14.8bn funding envelope for Crossrail, and the company is looking to attract sponsors to fund the art works. In December 2013 the City of London announced that it would match-fund the programme across all of the stations and in January this year Canary Wharf Group became the first to come on board to sponsor art at Canary Wharf station.

The www.crossrailart.co.uk website includes Custom House as the eighth station to benefit, but Crossrail spokesman Hamish McDougall told RTM that Custom House does not currently have funding under the City of London agreement.

Designed together

The seven artworks will be built at the same time as the new stations, allowing real integration with the architecture of the buildings.

Andersen explained that the artworks will also be permanently integrated into the stations, “which is why collaboration with our architects and engineers is really important for us”.

“They are built to last the lifetime of the station, which is roughly 100 years,” she said.

“We highlight potential opportunities within the station, but we keep it relatively open. Within this brief, we talk about three big ideas: art and architecture, where the artist uses materials that the architects are already planning to use within the station; river of light, where an artist can choose to use digital technologies to develop a proposal; or urban realm, where they can choose things like benches and bins and signage for their artwork.

“It’s to create a sense of unity between the artworks and to give the artist that guidance of what we’re open to. It’s completely up to the artist which avenue they choose to go down.”

Other ways to work with the themes available include screens showing animation, light, or moving text, as well as sculpture, wayfinding and “site-specific responses to the neighbourhood”.

Public perception

The potential for this programme to change the way passengers think about their journeys is huge, Andersen said.

She explained: “We’ve noticed in other major cities where they have engaged cultural organisations and [had] artists within their station spaces, that it’s been a much more positive passenger experience.

“That’s what we’re hoping to achieve with Crossrail. It just adds that added element to a passengers’ daily journey to and from work, or wherever they’re going; I think it will have a huge change in how London integrates art into their transport system.”

The rail industry was starting to recognise the importance of taking this extra step and considering the aesthetic appeal of transport infrastructure and buildings, Andersen added. “There’s a much bigger focus on the idea of place-making and how a station environment affects local communities.

“We have major urban realm designs as well; there’s a whole range of factors that we’re taking into account. Organisations are
realising that art has a huge significance in regenerating areas.”

Crossrail has also just appointed its first ‘artist in residence’, Julie Leonard, who will create a ‘pictorial diary’ of the project, its people and construction scenes.

Crossrail chair Terry Morgan said: “We want Crossrail to enhance London’s reputation as one of the world’s great cultural and artistic capitals. We have embedded culture into the heart of Crossrail’s design and delivery because it is crucial to nurture the best creative minds, as well as the best commercial ones. We welcome Julie Leonard and look forward to her art, which has a humorous and creative take on everyday situations. Her art will help highlight for the public the huge level of activity underway behind Crossrail’s hoardings.”

Julie Leonard said: “I look forward to creating a body of work that will form a unique archive and visual legacy of places that people rarely see. My digital pieces will be an accessible, versatile and instant way to capture the challenges of building Crossrail. I hope the art will bring together the people working on Crossrail from the bottom up and those who will eventually use it. I see it as an opportunity to engage in the creative process, transfer my excitement about Crossrail and get young people working with me and learning about the project first hand.”


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