Saturday, 12 November 2016

Pick Of The Week

Let's end this crazy week with something utterly lovely. I freely admit to relishing the opportunity to go up to the capital every month or so, and to travel on the London Underground .  I know daily commuters won't share that delight,  but I am blessed with the time to enjoy the ride . Much of the beauty of the system is down to the vision of one man, Frank Pick [1878-1941], first manager and CEO of London Transport. He commissioned all this...the red roundel logo, all those fabulous posters, Dorn's seat upholstery fabric designs, Beck's iconic map, Johnson's groundbreaking typeface - and much more that we recognise as part of the 'corporate image' of our subterranean transport system. All still in evidence today. This week a thoughtfully designed memorial to the man was unveiled at Piccadilly Circus.  
You can read lots more about this here and here. The architects commissioned with designing a monument went through the archives at the London Transport Museum, and came across these scribbled words in the margins of Pick's lecture notes. They said
"We immediately recognised they encapsulated Pick’s vision and intentions with the brevity and precision of a scientific equation. They are a clear attempt to reduce what he believed in, and what he was trying to do, to the absolute essential minimum, to understand and describe the path of transformation, of everyday qualities into eternal values, that can be achieved through great art and design...If the installation awakens people’s curiosity to discover who Frank Pick was, why we owe him so much, and whether we still have something to learn from the values that drove him it will be worthwhile, to understand that by transforming our surroundings we can transform our lives."
He was a prodigious, committed man - his strong work ethic, and unwavering moral views, conditioned by his strict Wesleyan upbringing, led to him being nicknamed "Jonah" by colleagues. He was rather pessimistic about the future, believing that man was not achieving his full potential, and wrote pamphlets in the 1920s about this. 
One day the ice will descend and blot out all traces of man's works. The earth will grow cold. Nature will return to her kingdom and spread her snowy pall over the last man, and there will be nothing but barren rocks again ... Man will have disappeared from the face of the earth with the world that he had made. His day will be done. And the evening and the morning were the eighth day. Will man be able to say:"and, behold, it was very good? 
However he was a great role model for those who worked in his office, many of whom went on to become excellent managers themselves. I am glad that on the 75th anniversary of his death, he is being publicly commemorated like this - it's a little sad that the unveiling has been largely overlooked because of other events. I hope to check it out next time I am near Piccadilly. I shall stand in the station and try to follow Frank's train of thought...
Beauty is less than Immortality
Utility is less than Perfection
Goodness is less than Righteousness
Truth is less than Wisdom


  1. Thank you so much for posting this!

    I loved riding the Underground each time I visited England. Such an amazing variety of decorative styles and colours contained within and pulled together by the amazing framework of the overall design. What a fitting tribute to the man who oversaw its formation.

  2. Thank you for telling this Londoner about Frank Pick's memorial, next time I am in Town I will go and admire it.


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