The London bus: Britain’s most iconic design?

Beloved by locals and tourists alike, London’s bright red double-decker bus has endured to become synonymous with the city. Jonathan Glancey explains its appeal.

The post-box red, double-decker bus was never designed to be an icon. It was supposed to last just 17 years – so why is the Routemaster still with us, 50 years later?

It was designed by London Transport to be both ultra-modern and traditional, created by Londoners, for Londoners. The prototype was issued in 1954 and the first vehicles went into service two years later.

Created right after World War II, its body was made of lightweight aluminium – perhaps the most direct link with war-time engineering techniques.

Advertisement

Win the ultimate autumn experience in London

Autumn in London is when the city bursts to life with blockbuster festivals, exhibitions, and fantastic theatre.

 

This year we’re bringing you the city’s most passionate locals to share why culture in their city is like no other.

 

Enter now for your chance to win a unique London experience with one of our local guides.

Click here to find out more

When it was finally taken out of regular service in 2005, there was a public outcry at the loss of a London icon – the name was revived with a new Routemaster just three years later. But can the new bus live up to its iconic predecessor? Jonathan Glancey takes a look. 

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.