Hanger Lane Gyratory and Tube Station, London: What A Mess

Hanger Lane is no driver’s friend here in London. Signage here is so scary at times, you’re surprised no-one bumps into one other. The Tube station is another throw-off. Most of us see a city metro station building above-ground, and some of us are tempted to do what human natures makes us do — try to enter from ground level.

Except you can’t do it here. Hanger Lane station sure does have an above-ground edifice, but this being in the centre of the gyratory (read: super-complex roundabout system), you have to enter from beneath the ground. I like how they do something like a little “mini-underground-pedestrian-roundabout-art-thing” there, though. Now if only the Jing took their cue from here… (then again, after the mess, they wouldn’t want to).

Hanger Lane station itself isn’t bad, it’s just the way you get into the thing that throws people off. What I, as a “sometimes”-ish driver, though, don’t like about Hanger Lane Gyratory (except if I bypass this on the A40 by using the tunnel) is how complex they’ve made it. If you’ve been upset by Chaoyangmen crossing in Beijing, this is something just as scary. The North Circular Road (the A406, that is) is spread out throughout the entire roundabout system. You do have big signs telling people where to go for the circular, but minor signs to the A40 are given less visibility. The result: drivers either leaving the traffic circle too early, too late, or like Mr Bean, get in there and cannot get out. Never mind the minor highway signs are nearly invisible as well; it’s a mess any way you see it. Short of relying on markings on the road itself, it’s very hard to get from A to B if Hanger Lane is in any way involved.

More overhead gantries is one way out. Using destination (or at least highway) sensitive coloured backgrounds on the road markings would be another (yellow for the North Circular, green for the A40, or something like that). Even more “regular” signs would also help. The temptation, though, might be to rip the thing into shreds and start anew (which is what just about happened at the equally perplexing junction in Xizhimen, northwestern central Beijing), but Ma Nature would never favour that: there’s a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation right in the middle of the gyratory.

In the end this is just one gyratory that didn’t work out at the end (plus a confusing Tube station when it comes to the main entrances). Let’s hope this, plus the Swindon Magic Roundabout, remain the sole two of Britain’s most insane, maniacal junctions. Any reproductions and I’m going to go bald (OK, not really, but it’s a tall order already getting from A to B in time without getting lost!).

That Building…

I’ve been through probably too many buildings in this world. Some were great: Beijing South (“Beijingnan”) Railway Station was brilliant when it opened up, although as of late, there are too many shops (thankfully, there’s a couple of Starbucks as well). Watford Junction certainly can get a little better, especially when you’ve the basics ready: more signs to the toilets would have made life better. Others were a curse. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport’s Terminal 1 is a place I would rather never go to again; it’s a circus, a zoo, and a complete mess. I wouldn’t mind if I spent more time at Zürich Airport, though, and that epic bit where you go through all the gates at Terminal A — on a moving walkway right next to the planes — is just — oh wow. I loved that.

I’ve been through loads of buildings. Some were a scary, a disaster, a nightmare: the signage at Pimlico Tube station in London needs serious improvement. Others were less scary: Shanghai Pudong is as cool as an airport as it is when it comes to the signs. Some buildings were there to let through light: I loved Bermondsey station in London. Others were a dungeon: I’m looking at you, that 1950s-esque Caobao Road station in Shanghai.

When it comes to buildings I love, I hate, or I have to let my 2p be heard on, this is where you’ll find it. After a million kilometres on the go, it’s time I shared my stories — and let’s also hope if you’re an architect yourself, you’ll probably be clued in a little better on how to build those things right.

I wish the bright, white light that’s lighting up the Pimlico roundel was used in wayfinding signs. There’s a first to improve on… as I head to Vauxhall whilst passing through that building