TRANSPORTATION | Mach 2 :: Le Concorde ::: A Visual Tribute to an Icon of Modern Design

Image below by Mogzilla

PHOTO > Platform3, Flickr

Vintage Air France Concorde collectibles from Nathan Shedroff’s obsession


> Click to enlarge

> For a detailed list of destinations, see Heritage Concorde


For a more complete history, see salon-de-l’

Le célèbre Machmètre

Chosen by the British as their number one design icon (beating my favourite, Harry Beck’s 1931 London Underground Map), Concorde’s (“no article, please — we’re British”) design was a military hand-me-down that shuttled the élite from continent to continent for “27 supersonic years.”


The planes were beautiful in a menacing sort of way: Concorde’s delta wings and extremely narrow fuselage gave the plane the appearance of a graceful crane in flight, yet those same wings were the result of advances in military aircraft design.


Concorde Class must have been fun for those would could afford it: all that caviar and champagne being served nearly 20 kilometres above the planet put Concorde’s passengers in a league of their own.


On certain early evening flights departing from Heathrow or Paris it was possible to take off just after sunset and catch up with the sun, landing in New York in daylight. “Arrive before you leave” was British Airways’ slogan. The ability to do a “day trip” to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean clearly held value for some passengers.


The plane was always about the future but remains a relic from the past. Its designers and engineers envisioned a future where supersonic was the norm. And yet, for a variety of reasons, not a single plane was ever commercially sold (the planes used by BA and AF were foisted on the companies by their respective governments). It’s amazing that they lasted as long as they did.


It took the crash of Air France Flight 4590 to bring the party to an end. Toshihiko Sato’s horrific photograph of Concorde on fire at Paris-Charles de Gaulle on 25 July 2000 was not the kind of publicity Concorde was used to. One hundred and nine people aboard and four on the ground were killed that summer’s day.



Until that moment, the plane had the world’s best safety record. Overnight, Concorde’s image changed. It would take another three years before Air France and British Airways jointly halted operations, forcing the élite to fly First Class on subsonic planes.




I find it intriguing that the British chose two icons of transportation as their top design icons. One design was for the “common” man; the other for the “crème de la crème.”

If asked my opinion in the Great British Design Quest, I would have said that Concorde was indeed a design icon, but one that affected few people’s lives. The Tube Map, on the other hand, revolutionized the way cartographical information was displayed and understood. And Harry Beck’s design has certainly touched the lives of many more people than Le Concorde, with its elitism, ever could.

Mr. Beck (1903-1974) and his revolutionary map of the tube. Beck was an engineering draftsman with the London Underground’s Signals Office when he designed the first diagrammatic tube map in 1931.

Beck’s “modern” innovation was to dispense with geographical reality in favour of clarity of design — now considered “normal” in wayfinding systems but which was radical in its time.



































Production version of the map (1936) above and Beck’s original drawing for the ‘diagrammatic’ tube map (1931), below.



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Paris Match | Legende of Concorde (slideshow)

LIFE | Supersonic! Tribute to the Concorde

The Independent | Concorde beats Tube map to become Britain’s favourite design

Nathan Shedroff | Concord Collection

The Design Museum | Concorde

Eric Farnet | My Concorde Flight of 25 May 2003

The Travel Insider | Concorde: An Untimely and Unnecessary Death

British Pathé | Video > Concorde 002 Take Off Newsreel Film

Heritage Concorde | Engineered to be the best, Concorde flew above the rest… | Concorde: 40 ans du premier vol

The Guardian |Tunnel vision: a history of the London tube map