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Routemaster buses, London, United Kingdom

Friday 04 Jun 2010

Reworking a London classic

Routemaster buses by Thomas Heatherwick in London, United Kingdom
© Transport for London 2010 
Routemaster buses by Thomas Heatherwick in London, United Kingdom Routemaster buses by Thomas Heatherwick in London, United Kingdom Routemaster buses by Thomas Heatherwick in London, United Kingdom
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14/06/10 Dorin, Sibiu,Romania
As a visitor back in 2003, I appreciated the old ones ! I think this new design didn't find a specific shape of this OBJECT for the 21-th.
08/06/10 Bob Keenan, London
This constantly repeated mantra about Ken scrapping the Routemaster and Boris not being so short sighted is expected in newspapers like the Daily Mail but not here. It has to stop. The Routemaster, classic though it was, was almost out of date when it entered service. It was given repreive after reprieve but eventually, for reasons beyond Ken's control, it had to go. 50 years isn't a bad span for a London Bus. The new 'Routemaster' is as much like the old one as BMW's Mini is like the Issigonis version. Stop making the comparisons. They are irrelevant. The new one has many problems to overcome. Boris hates the 'Bendy Bus' not least because people can hop on and hop off without paying the driver.....and the new Routemaster ???
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08/06/10 Iva, Sydney
Luuvley, very London. Looks good.
If you had Sydney sunshine could go solar collectors on roof!
08/06/10 Steve YF CHAN, Hong Kong
Bravo to Thomas & London!

As the architect son of a public bus driver in Hong Kong who had fond memories in his early teens of daydreaming being a bus driver while seating on his father's driver seats, I am thrilled to look forward to experience Thomas' sensuous and contemporary redesign of the London's icon of moving architecture soon.


1) the risk exposure of future spread of SARS & epidemic flu within the 'confined space' of a public transport &

2) the common positioning of the exhaust pipe of the large capacity engine of double decker bus at low level which further aggravates the concentration of pollutants at pedestrian level,

I also look forward to Thomas & the whole team to come up with creative, sustainable, cost-effective and aesthetically aspiring design to address these issues, e.g. window operable for natural ventilation when needed, and the positioning of the exhaust pipe at high level (which may also allow further collection of PM2.5 & PM10 particulate matters by more effective & cheaper device en route before discharging onto the air).

cc: Heatherwick
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08/06/10 Eva, London
Great take on the iconic design. But PLEASE take into consideration ventilation inside the bus . The existing new double deckers don't have enough openable windows resulting in 'fuggy' atmosphere in winter, and extreme heat in the summer.

Heatherwick Studio on the route to success with contemporary design for London buses 

Is there anything more typically British than a red Routemaster bus on a wet, windswept day? Millions of tourists return home after trips to the capital year after year with fridge magnets, rubbers, t-shirts and baseball caps all emblazoned with the iconic red London buses. It came as no great shock therefore that the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone came under attack from many British traditionalists when he announced his decision to scrap the beloved Routemasters several years ago. Luckily, the current Mayor, Boris Johnson, is not so short-sighted.

After a speculative redesign of the buses by Alan Ponsford appeared in Autocar magazine, Transport of London launched an official international design competition for architects and designers to attempt the same. This competition was jointly won by Ponsford’s own design consultancy, Capoco, and renowned architect Norman Foster. The tender was won by Irish firm Wrightbus, who had recently hired Thomas Heatherwick (whose studio has recently completed the stunning UK Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo). Foster soon withdrew from the scheme and Capoco’s winning design was dropped, leaving Heatherwick with almost free reign over the design.

The result is a curving tribute to the original Routemaster, designed by Douglas Scott in 1948, whose traditional streamlined buses featured open-access platforms, multiple decks and trademark curved frontages. Heatherwick’s 2010 design puts a modern spin on the classic concept, bringing back the open-access platform at the rear end of the bus (with the option of closing it off at quiet times), copying its curved exterior and of course adopting its gleaming scarlet hue. However, this younger sister also features the latest green technology, meaning it will be 15% more fuel efficient than existing hybrid buses and 40% more efficient than conventional diesel double deckers. Constructed of lightweight material, the buses are set to have a much lighter, airier feel than their predecessors, aided by a swirling expanse of glass, highlighting multiple staircases that aim to make boarding both faster and smoother.

Boris Johnson is clearly delighted with the outcome, stating: “This iconic new part of our transport system is not only beautiful, but also has a green heart beating beneath its stylish, swooshing exterior. It will cut emissions, and give Londoners a bus they can be proud of, complete with cutting edge design, and the freedom of an open platform. I expect to eventually have hundreds of these on London’s roads, and for cities around the globe to be beside themselves with envy for our stunning red emblem of 21st century London.” In these challenging times, it can be reassuring to dip into Britain’s nostalgic past, if only for a short bus trip. And where better to do so than in the nation’s capital? After all, as Heatherwick recently admitted, ‘Buses are the architecture of London. They just move around a bit’.

Sian Disson
Editorial Assistant

Key Facts

Status Design
Value 0(m€)
Thomas Heatherwick

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