Heatherwick and others create HS2 “design vision”

Former Design Council chief executive David Kester has brought together a group of leading designers including Thomas Heatherwick, Paul Priestman, Sophie Thomas and Simon Sankarayya to create a series of design principles for the proposed HS2 high-speed rail network.

Proposal for HS2 overhead line structures, by Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald
Proposal for HS2 overhead line structures, by Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald

Former Design Council chief executive David Kester has worked with designers including Thomas Heatherwick, Paul Priestman and Sophie Thomas to create a “design vision” for the planned HS2 high-speed rail network.

High Speed 2 is a planned rail link between London and the North West, via the West Midlands. The Bill that would allow for the construction of the HS2 network is currently passing through parliament.

HS2 Ltd – the company tasked with delivering the network – has published a “Design Vision” which calls for a “transformational” approach to creating the network.

HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby says: “Everything we create is designed and every design discipline is covered in our interpretation of design.

“To recoin a phrase – we are designing from the pixel to the city – from digital systems to urban infrastructure and so much else besides.”

Proposal for HS2 overhead line structures, by Ramboll UK
Proposal for HS2 overhead line structures, by Ramboll UK

The Design Vision project has been led by Kester, who gathered together a panel of designers of different disciplines, including branding expert Michael Johnson, interactive designer Simon Sankarayya and Ben Terrett, head of design at the Government Digital Service.

The panel met last summer to discuss ideas for the design of HS2, in an event that was also attended by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Following the meeting, the panel has now created a Design Vision document, which will be used to guide the design and delivery of the project.

The document outlines three main priorities for HS2: People, Place and Time.

The People theme outlines that HS2 should create “design for everyone to benefit and enjoy and calls for a focus on user and community engagement.

The Place theme calls for “design for a sense of place” and spells out a commitment to regeneration and environmental standards.

The Time theme says that HS2 should create “design to stand the test of time”. It suggests creating designs that can be adapted to future needs and that also “demonstrate to customers how their time has been valued”.

The HS2 Design Vision document, by InspireConspireRetire with Johnson Banks
The HS2 Design Vision document, by InspireConspireRetire with Johnson Banks

The Design Vision document has been designed by InspireConspireRetire, with a visual identity by Johnson Banks. It uses a version of the New Rail Alphabet – a typeface originally created by Kinneir Calvert Associates in the 1960s for use in the public sector, and updated by Henrik Kubel and Margaret Calvert.

HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby says the Design Vision will be used to “hold us to account” and to “constantly critique and check that we are on course”.

David Kester says: “Infrastructure on this scale inevitably involves many thousands of engineers, architects and designers. The Design Vision provides a strong design mandate. This will help focus on what is important, deliver great and effective solutions and a seamless experience for the UK.”

HS2 has also appointed Sadie Morgan, a founding director of dRMM Architects, as chair of its Design Panel. The Government says her role will be to ensure that “through great design HS2 delivered real economic, social and environmental benefits for the whole country.”

Morgan says: “Great design is integral to making sure that HS2 achieves its full potential, from the beginning to the end of the journey. This includes not only landscape and station design but the entire passenger experience.

“From website to way finding, ticketing to trains – the remit of the Design Panel will be all encompassing. We will deliver a project that everyone can be proud of, that speaks a national language yet respects regional dialects. Outstanding design will ensure a step-change in railway travel for this century and beyond.”


You can read the HS2 Design Vision here.

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