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Prototyping – refining design every step of the way

Prototyping components for use on the project has been vital to refining and enhancing design as well as maximising efficiency - a rare opportunity for infrastructure projects on the scale of Crossrail.

The glass-fibre reinforced cladding (GFRC) used inside the new below ground stations is one example where prototyping has resulted in significant programme benefits.

Concrete moulds used to create glass-fibre reinforced cladding for Elizabeth line stations_236331

Through the prototyping and testing programme, the GFRC cladding and cladding grid has been optimised to achieve a lighter weight, cost-effective solution to the complex double curvature geometries.

The bespoke designs, unique to specific stations on the line, have also been prototyped and tested as part of the construction process.  One example is this early version of a bespoke light drum designed for the ceilings inside the Tottenham Court Road ticket halls.

An early version of a bespoke light drum designed for the ceilings inside the Tottenham Court Road t

There are two types. The first is a lighting drum, 800 millimetres tall, with a 45 degree faceted perimeter that creates a halo effect. The second, an acoustic drum which has a capped base, performs acoustic attenuation and contains speakers where necessary. Subtle variations in lighting intensity improve wayfinding functionality. 


Design prototype of new timber seats for the Elizabeth line_236334

The seats are made of Kebony sustainable yellow pine - a modified softwood. This relatively new product to the transport sector avoids the use of tropical hardwood.

Ergonomic user-testing helped achieve an optimal balance between comfort, accessibility and functionality for the final design.

A modular design allows each individual component to be replaced.

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In 2011, a life-size ‘mock-up’ of a below ground Crossrail platform was created to develop and test designs for the underground station platforms.  The mock-up was built to help Crossrail understand how the new designs for new below ground platforms will look in real life and to determine from a practical perspective whether any design modification needs to be made ahead of station construction commencing.

In finalising its station designs, Crossrail is including lessons learnt from London Underground and Transport for London (TfL) and London Rail about the operation and maintenance of Tube, rail and DLR stations. This knowledge and experience will help Crossrail to improve and finalise the internal designs and layouts for Crossrail station.

The mock-up of the Crossrail platform - measuring 20m in length, 10m in width, with a ceiling height of 5m above the platform-edge doors - helped inform final design decisions about the below ground station environment.

The mock-up was created using film set design techniques to replicate the feel of actual finishes, which are significantly cheaper than using actual construction materials:

  • Sprayed Concrete Lining was created by spraying expanded foam onto wallpaper and cut into panels.  
  • Light fittings were made with painted plywood.  
  • Real floor tiles and glass were used but the metal work is actually plywood coated in metal laminate to make it look like stainless steel.  
  • Lower glass plastic reinforced panels were made using a mould, similar to boat making techniques.

The mock-up has been extremely valuable in understanding the visual and spatial effects created by the proposed combination of finishing materials and components within the platform environment.

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