Lay Down the Hard Lines (Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange, London, UK)

Striking, austere, pared back to the absolute essentials; Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange is a bus station of radical economy in design. It takes the minimalist approach of recent Transport for London (TfL) bus stations and distils it to its logical extreme – it is hard to think how much more simplified a bus station structure could get before it stops being a bus station at all.

Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange. Photo by Alan Stanton [CC BY-SA 2.0] via this Flickr page

Situated close to the entrance of Tottenham Hale Underground and National Rail stations, Landolt +Brown Architects’ bus interchange opened in 2014. It is formed of six rectangular canopies, linked together on their short sides into two rows of three. Each one is supported by six tapering arms which cantilever out from a central column; one arm to each corner, and shorter ones to the middle of the long sides. The canopy frames themselves are triangular in cross section. This is hard, angular, architecture, of a very modern feel, with Landolt+Brown working with Mott MacDonald as structural engineers. Here, there are none of the curves which mark out Vauxhall’s sinuous bus station (The Beauty of Transport 13 November 2013), nor the warm brickwork and planting of West Croydon Bus Station (The Beauty of Transport 9 October 2019).

Between the six arms supporting the canopy frames, metal cables are tied between the frames and the central column. These support ETFE foil roofs, an increasingly common material in railway and bus station roofs, being both transparent and lightweight.

Each of the six canopies is held aloft by a single four-sided column which tapers, obelisk-like, towards to the top. The lightweight ETFE canopies and the cantilevered arms which support them mean that the footprint of the bus station is extremely small, allowing freedom of movement through the bus station for both bus users and buses on this space-constrained site.

Tottenham Hale bus station. Note the inclusion of TfL standard design elements for bus stations. Photo by Daniel Wright [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

The end result is an uncompromising and dramatic structure, albeit one which offers only limited weather protection to passengers. In fact, individual traditional bus shelters have been provided under the canopies to supply this, along with standard design TfL bus station clocks and information boards. Your appreciation of the merits of Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange is likely to depend upon the degree to which you think bus stations should provide heated and sheltered environments for waiting bus passengers. It is clear from comments received by this website over its life that many readers think this is an essential feature, but it is one which London’s bus stations have moved away from in recent years.

Vauxhall, West Croydon (though there is a small coffee shop) and Tottenham Hale bus stations are all open structures, rather than featuring the extensive enclosed areas of traditional bus stations. It is clear that this is a deliberate policy on the part of commissioning authority TfL. Presumably part of the reason is that bus frequencies are higher in London than in many other locations around the country which have bus stations, where longer waits require more traditional waiting room areas. At Vauxhall, personal security concerns were a driver of the open architecture, allowing long sightlines through the structure, and presumably this consideration remains at play in TfL’s recent bus stations.

Landolt+Brown explain that their design responded to a brief from TfL which required canopies of a height which give sufficient vertical clearance to allow a double decker bus to be lifted on jacks if it broke down in the bus station. The downside of that, of course, is that it leaves plenty of space for inclement weather to work its way in. Another rather sobering aspect of the brief which led to the choice of the transparent ETFE canopies was a requirement for daylight to penetrate but the materials not to collapse in the event of explosion or a vehicle fire.

Landolt+Brown say they were aiming for a “characterful and elegant” structure, with canopy support geometries having a “complex, intriguing, elegant and unique” impact. The bus station was a national finalist in 2015’s Structural Steel Design Awards.

Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange, canopy support detail. Photo by Daniel Wright [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

At the moment, the area around the bus station is in a state of (controlled) chaos while a rebuild of Tottenham Hale station takes place; part of Network Rail’s £170m Lee Valley Rail Programme, which also includes the construction of Meridian Water station (The Beauty of Transport 4 December 2019). Despite that, the singular vision of Tottenham Hale Interchange impresses, its razor edged clinical form cutting through the clutter around it.

How to Find Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange

Click here for The Beauty of Transport‘s map

Bibliography and Further Reading

Landolt+Brown’s project page for Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange, here

…and anything linked to in the text above

4 thoughts on “Lay Down the Hard Lines (Tottenham Hale Bus Interchange, London, UK)

  1. The Tottenham bus station is a knock out. Yes it is a little light on passenger amenities and comfort but is still a beauty.

  2. This design responds to a rather depressing brief. It’s certainly striking – part of the purpose of bus station architecture is to provide a point of orientation. I like the clock.

    It could be said though that the canopies represent a lot of attention-seeking form with very little function.

    Excellent BoT write-up as always.

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