An architectural tour of Tyne and Wear Metro
Ever stopped to take a look at the various sites and stations that make up the iconic Tyne and Wear Metro system?
All aboard, stand clear of the doors, and grab your Pop Pay As You Go card - and let's take you on an architectural journey across the network.
Sweeping across the landscape in a unique way, the Byker viaduct is one of the first structures of its kind to be built using cantilevered concrete sections with joints glued with epoxy resin. It actually forms an elongated ‘S’ shape as it sweeps across the Ouseburn between the other Byker bridges, and is best seen from below where its slim height can be appreciated. In the 1970s is innovative construction was a major engineering achievement by Ove Arup and Partners allowing Metro to reach the heart of Byker’s Shields Road and Byker Wall communities on the way towards Tynemouth.
You can learn more about its construction in the video below.
2. Jesmond Metro station
Jesmond’s airy pavilion echoes the style of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, regarded as one of the great modernist architects of the 20th Century, and was named one of the 100 best stations in Britain by historian Simon Jenkins. The external glass walls and roof detailing are in a similar style to van der Rohe’s New National Gallery in Berlin. The station is designed to let in natural light, reducing the need for artificial light at concourse level. Internal areas are clad with hard-wearing vitreous enamel which has survived more than four decades. The station was designed by L. J. Couves & Partners under the masterplan for modern Metro stations set down by architects Faulkner-Brown Hendy Watkinson Stonor.
3. Airport Metro station
This station marked the terminus of Metro’s first new extension, reaching Newcastle International Airport in 1991. A glass and steel pyramid roof provides a distinctive point of interest amid the airport buildings while casting daylight down into the ticket concourse. The whiteness of the steel structure at platform level against the dark colours of the current fleet make this a station of contrasts.
4. St James Metro station
St James station, like its sister Gateshead, was bult within a specially dug hole, which explains its cathedral-like proportions. The ribbed concrete walls are a great example of early Metro architecture. Opened in 1982 it was also an early example of incorporating biodiversity into the design. Above the station sits a concrete basin roof, filled with soil to allow shrubs and trees to thrive in the heart of a city centre. The station interior was redecorated in the early 2000s in Newcastle United's famous black-and-white colours, images of players and fans, and a ‘pitch of fame’ studded with the actual boot and hand prints of club legends.
5. Fellgate Metro station
Opened in 2002 as part of the Sunderland line, this station’s unusual design reflects the high railway embankment it needed to be built on to best serve nearby homes. The lift towers and platforms are built out from the Victorian embankment to prevent any risk of undermining it, with the whole structure therefore representing a ‘viaduct station’ – the only one on Metro. All Sunderland line stations originally used pastel colour pallets designed by the artist Morag Morrison, setting a clear distinction between other parts of the network and building in intensity towards Park Lane, where they are best seen on the underground platforms.
6. Tynemouth Metro station
The first Metro service left from Tynemouth towards Haymarket on 11 August 1980, but the station itself is of course much older. William Bell designed Tynemouth for the North Eastern Railway and it opened in July 1882 to welcome the Victorian masses to the seaside. The additional platforms once needed for bank holiday crowds are long closed but the huge concourse has new life as the home of a vibrant weekend market, as well as cafes and restaurants. Tynemouth’s glass canopy was restored in 2011 and the station, now managed by a community trust, is listed for its architectural heritage alongside nearby Whitley Bay.
7. Gateshead Interchange
Quarried out of the ground in the 1970s, Gateshead Interchange’s design in part reflects the geology of the area; miners drafted in from the coal industry helped in its construction and its square running tunnels reflect the engineering challenges. Coal extracted from the seams the line passes through in Gateshead was mined for sale as work went on. Today, alongside the characterful design of its lift and escalator routes, the station is home to an eclectic range of public art, with almost a dozen pieces to be found from Keith Grant’s huge mosaics at each end of the platform to the smaller surprises of urban artist Invader.
8. Tyne Dock Metro Station
This station is a good example of the approach set down by Faulkner-Brown in the Metro building design guide, produced in the 1970s, from which all new stations take their cues. It was purpose-built for Metro and opened in 1984, featuring neo-brutalist ribbed concrete, modular design features and enclosed ticket concourses. The station was refurbished in 2018 to update the colour scheme and signage.
9. Longbenton Metro Station
Longbenton station was built in 1947 on the instruction of the Government to transport thousands of employees to the new Ministry of National Insurance site opening nearby – it is truly a child of the welfare state. From the outside it is also clearly a child of the art deco era, with a clean and elegant exterior, curved walls use of feature glass and a distinct white render influenced by the work of London Underground architect Charles Holden
10. Monkseaton Metro Station
There has been a station at Monkseaton since 1864 but the present building dates from 1915. It’s surprising scale is explained by the fact this was once a busy railway junction served by trains from Blyth as well as the ‘loop’ to and from Central Station. North Eastern Railways planned a third line from here to Seaton Sluice, but this was abandoned after the First World War. Original features include the original ticket office windows in the entrance hall, although the stained glass panels in the roof are a modern addition.
Next time you're using the Tyne and Wear Metro, why not take a look around, and see what you can tell about the architecture of the day.