Monday, 11 July 2016

What should we call Melbourne Metro's stations?

Concept art for Parkville Station (via MMRA)
The Hun is reporting that PTV/Melbourne Metro Rail Authority will be seeking feedback on what to name Melbourne Metro's five new stations, which have the working names of Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South, and Domain. The Hun (and the various people they quote) have suggested names like "Archer" and "Shinboner" for Arden, "Barassi" for CBD North, "Federation" for CBD South, and "Shrine" for Domain.

It's pretty common for PTV to seek community feedback when they name new stations - they did it for Wendouree and Waurn Ponds stations in recent years. There's nothing inherently wrong with this - it's a good idea to see what name most makes sense to the community - but most of the names proposed aren't much better than Trainy McStationface. The name of a station should instantly let you know where it is - "Archer" is an in-joke, and will only make sense to a tiny number of people.

Southern Cross (source)
We have, of course, been through this before, a bit over a decade ago. The state's main terminal for regional and interstate trains was known as Spencer Street Station, which funnily enough is located on Spencer Street. However on 13 December 2005, coinciding with a major rebuild of the station and the Regional Fast Rail project for the trains that stopped there, it was renamed Southern Cross Station. There are a lot of people still quite sore about this - they grew up knowing it as Spencer Street, and quite rightly point out that the new name is useless faffery. What's the southern cross got to do with it? Personally I'm a bit too young to have any sentiment for the old name (I turned 18 about a week before the name changed, and didn't travel to Melbourne by train much before that) but I agree on an intellectual level - the new name of Southern Cross is just silly.

However, I wouldn't go so far as to say that the stations shouldn't include any honours for famous people, or any references to nearby monuments - quite the opposite. I just don't think the name is the best way to do it.

Brixton Station, home of the visual pun (via tompagenet)
A somewhat-famous attribute of London's Tube stations are that each generally has a unique tiling system by which to identify it. This was originally done in part because a lot of the people on the trains would have been illiterate, so they needed a way to distinguish the stations other than the name. In many cases this was just different colours or patterns, but on several there were little in-jokes, visual puns or references to nearby landmarks.

For example, Blackhorse Road has a black horse, Victoria has a silhouette of Queen Victoria, and King's Cross has a cross made up of five crowns. Some of the references are a little obscure - for example, Warren Street has a maze (like a rabbit warren), Brixton has something representing a ton of bricks, and Baker Street has a silhouette of Sherlock Holmes (who famously lived at 221b Baker Street) - but it doesn't really matter because of the combination of higher literacy rates and audible announcements. Now it's just a nice bit of whimsy that makes them easily-distinguishable and connects them to the local area.

The tiles at Baker Street doff the deerstalker to Sherlock Holmes (via givingnot)
MMRA should do effectively the same thing with the new stations - give them sensible names, then get a bit more whimsical in the design. It's not without precedent in Melbourne; Parliament has the ionic columns to call to mind Parliament House above. More recently, when Sunshine and West Footscray stations were redeveloped as part of Regional Rail Link, they had black-and-white images created in the mesh walls of their concourses (lighter parts created with bigger holes, darker parts created with smaller holes).

So Arden should still be called Arden - but I would definitely be on board with highlighting the connection to North Melbourne Football Club in the station design. A blue-and-white colourscheme, a kangaroo motif, a mural of North's team of the century on the concourse - whatever.

Parkville should stay Parkville - but there's nothing wrong with making reference to the University above. Even if it's as subtle as a general colour palette of sandstone.

CBD North and CBD South are a special case - they aren't really new stations, they're additional platforms for Melbourne Central and Flinders Street respectively. They will be connected internally to the existing stations, and so must keep their names. Ideally you'd like to see some sort of architectural consistency (or at least the appearance of it) between the current stations and their new platforms, but I won't hold my breath.

The tiles at Euston show the grand archway that used to be on the surface (via dgeezer)
Domain is a much better name for the southern-most station on the tunnel than Shrine, given that people go to "the Domain" every day but the Shrine only a few times a year. But some visual references to the Shrine are definitely a good idea - perhaps something in the style of Euston's archway.

Our stations can have a bit of fun about them - some local connections, some in-jokes, some historical tidbits. All too often their designs reflect the priorities of architects who want to win prizes, rather than the desires of the people who actually use them - little touches like these tiles could really make these stations feel like they're ours. But the names really have to be more practical.


  1. CBD North and CBD South are unhelpful names too. They should simply be called Melbourne Central and Flinders Street, even if this means fewer new stations for politicians to refer to. And "CBD" doesn't mean much to people outside Australia, so it'd be confusing for tourists.

    1. Sorry, that's what I meant - they're just additional platforms for Melbourne Central and Flinders Street, so they should keep the names of the two stations that already exist