The East London Line

Off come de wrappers.  The East London Line is now open.  I’m there before Hatherly, undertakes a commission.  Officially speaking, maybe the biggest kind of cultural shift to have happened since I been circulating in Whitechapel.  Surely, worth a review, worth some kind of superlative hack-saw appreciative critique.  I hear you wonder, what’s it like?  What’s it like?  Where does it go?  Well, I feel to pose some critique: it follows… 

Art as moving through new lines of a city.  Unseen viewpoints and a new way of navigating.  I’d rather ride the East London Line than queue at the National Gallery, any fucking day…

So here it is —

Vaytshepl.  Picture postcard.  Rustic scrawls of a bygone neighbourhood.  Commemorated alongside rudimentary Health and Safety apparatus.  But not a confused aesthetic no, at every point the East London Line designed around primary colour warnings of potential danger.  Or risk.  Incidentally.  They coloured this line orange.  Sunsets carved up by overground carriages in Corporate Grey and Brightest Orange. 

Trains too new for any muck, confusing drunk young revellers that this gotta be some other city.  One of them clean ones, like Seoul or Stockholm.  Shit, I treat the East London Line train like a catwalk, everyone looking good, checkin each other out.  New Train Line.  New Government.  Oooh it all feels a bit different.  But it’s not long before the rot starts to blight our journey…  Look at this!

Dalston.  Just like you always pictured it.  So Britain, so modern, you raise huge spectacles of engineering and a participatory route through the rooftops of Shoreditch, the playscapes of Hoxton.  The crowds on Brick Lane before the box of Shoreditch High Street Station.  Everything raised in astute grey concrete.  The capitalists seem to settle in its expanses.  I know a local boy, there’s a lady with red hair who attends his family ‘do’s.  Listen to this: the body of her father is somewhere inside the Bow flyover.  The Krays had him killed and that’s where they flung the body.  HHhhmmmm.  Nothing like that went into the polished but dull concrete of the new East London Line.  Back to my barbed aesthetic point.  Here, Dalston, they build a bridge out of concrete and then clad it with brickwork which makes it look old and established, like they hadn’t demolished countless old haunts to bring progress and commerce and gorgeous-looking young people to Dalston. 

It’s as it they want it to seem like the new East London Line was here all along…

I tell you what.  As lovely as it is –  Affordable.  Smooth.  Exciting – this smacks of a credit crunch project.  Not a lot of extra funds kicking around to enable decoration of any sort.  What kind of look were you going for here, guys?  Blank, corporate, subdued.  All it makes me think of is the smell of brick dust and the demolition of something old.  I’ve smelt it and I’ve seen it.  The Oxfam coming down on Dalston Road to make way for progress.  Bricks and mortar making way for double-story entrance halls and expanses of grey panelling. 

I laughed when I saw this.  Smug in their face.  Shoreditch – popular, fashionable, creative, itself exciting.  In fact, you could say one of the most culturally important places in the country.  Shoreditch sets the length of the hem and the fringe: Britain concurs and buys like that well after the season has elapsed.  And how to they design its glittering new station??  With no glitter in sight.  In fact, no decoration.  And it’s not a minimal public space or planned in a way where the structure of the building establishes a sense of visual intrigue, or a play with natural lighting, or indeed any statement about architecture or culture just a decade into a new millennium.  Nope, London capitalism just sits back and plumps for the standard.  So I can reveal how Shoreditch High Street station now simply stands for a dreadful lack of imagination or sense of time and place. 

I long for the time, perhaps even within the confines of this century, when the mob surge together, tearing smooth grey panels off the train station wall and replacing them with bones and sky-blue paint and amulets made of knock-off rolexes and Chinese cigarettes.  Dalston, the spirits have left and them too slow gonna get trampled.  I await the return…

Back to Whitechapel.  Apparatus of the bare-minimum tacked onto Victorian engineering.  Everything meets EU standard.  But nothing is given over to a youthful sense of play.  More grey, more monotony.  But I’ll say something, I can’t wait to go and have fun in Dalston, I’ve heard somebody say how it’s really up-and-coming. 

TFL, let the real work commence!

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1 Comment

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One response to “The East London Line

  1. Paul

    hope you uncover and reveal more where ever your going…I’ve really enjoyed your writings on Whitechapel

    all the best
    Paul

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