March 26, 2010
underground eastendstraddler
Map of the London Underground Railways, Harry Beck, 1933 (source)


Recently the diagram of London’s central underground network, as displayed inside the trains, changed to include the East End of London. The area shown was enlarged to introduce all stations from Notting Hill to Stratford—an endeavor that not only conformed to London’s geographic reality but also the socio-cultural significance of the East End—the area east of the medieval walled-city of London. As a visual depiction of central London, the small map displayed in the tube long excluded East London and solely represented its center, the West End and West London. Indeed this change precedes the political ambitions of the London’s Olympics and the regeneration of the Hackney Marshes.


Although a minor detail for most commuters, this new mapping of central London highlights the shifting geography of London’s center, Eastward. From the traditional center of Charing Cross, the new map appears to position the area around St. Paul’s as its new geographical center.


Unlike London, New York’s topography clearly defines the rigid geography of the city with the island of Manhattan as a center, which is surrounded by peripheral neighborhoods. Similarly, Paris’ Boulevard Périphérique and the former site of the Thiers Wall, on which it is built, have both historically contained the city and clearly defines its boundary. London, as opposed to its metropolitan counterparts, does not accept a definite geography and its perceived center is indicated by the most common representation: the map of the underground. Thus, it is likely to change.


Simon Pennec


Photograph by Cameron Smith, 2008 (source)


Popular images of London often depict scenes from the city center and the West End. Despite an absence of tourist buses, the East is a colorful part of the city, with a unique identity, and rich character, which is often overlooked. Despite contributing to London’s success and diversity, this area lacks representation perhaps due to a history of poverty and is rarely exposed to outsiders.


In recent times, East London is increasingly gaining exposure as a backdrop for fashion shoots. Popping up in such magazines as Fantastic Man, The Gentlewoman etc. proves that the East is sharp. Knife crime aside, London still has an edge.


Erandi de Silva



Edited by Erandi de Silva




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