From Talking Statues to Wonderpass – Sing London transform grotty underpass into cultural walkway

The Marylebone Road’s once bleak pedestrian underpass has been transformed into an intriguing ‘Wonderpass’ full of bright graphics, historical information and cultural facts

Part encyclopedia, part gallery, The Wonderpass introduces a new kind of urban crossing – one that actually encourages lingering en route. Gone are the dingy walls and unreliable lighting: in its place is an engaging cultural crossing, offering pedestrians an enlightening way to cross the road.

The walk-through experience includes five Cabinets of Wonder. Each invites the passer-by to peek inside to learn about Baker Street’s rich cultural history and has been designed in partnership with a local cultural attraction. There’s a Madame Tussauds Cabinet of Wonder by Jess Linares, a Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Cabinet of Wonder by Max Jones, a Sherlock Holmes Cabinet of Wonder by Robin Tarbet and The Wallace Collection Cabinet of Wonder by Tom Ellis

The walls, too, are brimming with curious facts and local firsts such as ‘Did you know that Madame Tussaud perfected her art making death masks of executed aristocrats during the French Revolution?’ ‘Britain’s very first Indian restaurant – the Hindostanee Coffee House – opened here in 1810?’ ‘Baker Street was named after one William Baker, the man who built it?’

The Wonderpass is produced by Sing London, the participatory arts organisation that brought pianos, ping pong and Talking Statues to the streets of London. “The Wonderpass is not just about getting from A to B – it’s about enjoying the journey,” said Colette Hiller, Sing London’s Creative Director.

It has been designed in partnership with Hamish Bigg – the award-winning Scottish designer who transforms public spaces with Graphic design by Alice Roche & Frog Morris. The Wonderpass demonstrates that an underpass can be engaging, imaginative and more than a mural and it is hoped the Wonderpass will set a new precedent for neglected underpasses everywhere.

The Wonderpass was commissioned by the Baker Street Quarter Partnership and funded by Transport for London and Westminster City Council through the Bryanston & Dorset, Marylebone High Street and Regent’s Park Ward contributions.

Penny Alexander, Chief Executive of the Baker Street Quarter Partnership, said: “The Wonderpass provides the magnificent fanfare welcome this area deserves celebrating its fascinating past and showcasing our great attractions.”