Beck Exportation: London and Sydney
Keywords: Metromap, Harry Beck
Abstract. Henry (Harry) Beck’s schematic map of the London Underground is the foundation for most ‘modern’ representations of metropolitan rail systems. From its introduction in the 1930s, it has been the image of the London underground rail transportation system, and, indeed, the image of London itself.
Following the launch of the schematic map in 1933 Londoners adopted his representation of the underground as the favoured transportation navigation tool, but also as a physical affirmation that they were citizens of a modern city, a city of electricity and the avant-garde.
The London Underground map, as well as being the physical image of the underground rail system, became the signature of the modern city itself. It projected order, systematic transportation and commuter convenience. The map reinforced the general belief that a modern transportation system was at the very heart of what made a city a city.
Building upon the success of the map, Beck, and the London Passenger Transport Board, explored how this ‘take’ on the representation of an urban transportation system might be exported to other European, and Antipodean rail networks. This paper provides a dialogue on how Beck’s concept for the ‘metromap’ was offered as an alternative navigational diagram to the, then new, Sydney underground system. It then outlines the results of an investigation about how this ‘Exportation’ of Beck’s design resulted in the 1939 Sydney metromap that was a clone of the London Underground map.