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Stationary Contemplation - Reconnecting Communities by Rail

Part 1 Project 2009
Matthew Dalziel
London Metropolitan University London UK
A century after the ‘mania years’ of the 1850’s, when Britain’s railways grew to 7500 miles of track in under a decade, the nationalized railways of post war Britain underwent the most severe cutbacks ever inflicted on a modern transport system. Nearly a third of Britain’s lines were cut, either by the heavy hand of the infamous Dr Beeching or by an ever-growing enthusiasm for the road. At the heart of these cuts were the branch lines that provided connections to the Nations small communities, but along with them, a handful of major connections were shortened and great stations like London’s Marylebone came under threat.
In its heyday, Uckfield sat proudly as a major stop on the Wealden line running from Lewes to Tunbridge Wells. In the 1950’s however, a new motorway project at Lewes lead to the closure of the final 7 miles of track, transforming a once dignified Victorian station into an isolated terminal moments from the south coast and miles from London.
Today, due to growing passenger numbers and soaring fuel costs, Britain’s railways are undergoing a renaissance and the reinstatement of old connections like Lewes to Uckfield are becoming a real possibility.
The proposal situates its self in this promising future with a station on an historic site at the heart of a town rich in railway heritage.
In its undulating roofscape and civic ticket hall the new station at Uckfield looks back to its Victorian ancestry and forward to a new era of railway.

Matthew Dalziel


The theme of the studio was to investigate re-opening and expanding small railway stations in the South East of England. Severely depleted by the cuts recommended by Dr Beeching’s 1963 report and subsequent underinvestment, the British railway network lags far behind those of most major European countries. With the longest and richest history of railway architecture to draw upon and the increasing relevance of rail travel as a sustainable method of transport, the studio reflected on the past, present and future of the railway station in Britain.

The aim was to contemplate the station beyond the usual criteria of flows of people, goods and finances. Precedent stations from different eras were researched and selected fragments recorded in detail. The often eerie and dilapidated atmosphere of the station was investigated through photography and ‘constructed atmosphere’ models and renders. With these glimpses of the lost romance of rail travel in mind, students then set about re-imagining the small station on several sites between Tunbridge Wells and Lewes.

Matthew’s final project for a new station at Uckfield evolved from his meticulous study of the Victorian station at Lewes. Inspired by the steel truss engineering of the great shed and the picturesque hanging timber valance of the platform structures, he also noted the station’s role as both representational and infrastructural within the town.

To restore the lost cultural significance of the railway station in a small but expanding market town, Matthew proposed a structure significantly larger than the porta-cabin that currently serves as the station ticket office. New techniques of folded plate timber construction are employed to define the canopies, bridge and civic space of the main hall. It is recognisably a railway station, a place to wait next to the river.

The Wealden Line presents the most compelling case for re-opening a line in the South East of England, as a recent industry study and long running local campaign have shown. Reconnecting this town to the south coast by reinstating the Lewes to Uckfield line is an increasingly likely prospect. It deserves a fittingly ambitious architecture.

Tutor(s)


2009
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