The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

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The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:40 am

King's Cross concourse

King's Cross station's new roof is magnificent. It's just a shame it sits so uncomfortably among neighbouring buildings

Rowan Moore

The Observer, Sunday 18 March 2012

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:41 am


The new concourse at King's Cross station, designed by John McAslan and Partners, sits between King's Cross and the recently renovated St Pancras station next door. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:44 am


"The main event of the new work," according to the Observer's architecture critic Rowan Moore, "is the half-cylinder of the new concourse and its roof, which has a span of 52 metres." Photograph: Hufton & Crow

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:52 am


The new concourse is part of the £500m creation of a "transport super-hub" to be completed in time for the Olympics, when hundreds of thousands will pass through here on their way to the Javelin train from St Pancras to Stratford. Photograph: Hufton & Crow

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:55 am


It replaces the existing concourse, "a low, crowded 1970s structure of dim design, that has never been loved for the way it blots the view of the plain, handsome twin-arched front of the original station. This structure will disappear later this year, allowing the creation of a new forecourt." Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:58 am


"The original glass roof has been cleaned up and had its glass restored, while unnecessary clutter below has been removed, making it more bright and airy than it has looked at any time since it opened, 160 years ago. The effect of seeing this familiar, eternally grubby place transformed is dazzling." Photograph: Hufton & Crow

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:02 am


The semi-circular canopy sits against the brick side of the old station. Photograph: Hufton & Crow

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:05 am


The roof, engineered by Arup, "rises up a great steel stalk in the centre and then spreads into a tree-like canopy of intersecting branches, before descending into a ring of supports at the circumference. In so doing, it avoids the need to drop columns into the ticket hall of the underground station underneath the main space." Photograph: Hufton & Crow

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:09 am


The half-a-billion pound project also includes the restoration of the old station building and a new platform at King's Cross. Photograph: Hufton & Crow

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:15 am

^

It's not clear to me from the photos above just how much of this radical redesign of King's Cross station impacts on the London Underground part of the complex.

But since I've heard LU staff who work there refer to their new booking hall as "The North Pole" (because it's as freezing as it looks), it's a fair guess that, once again, a building has been designed for architects rather than for the people who have to use it.

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Re: The new concourse at King's Cross station, London

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:26 pm

The uplifting power of ingenious design enhances our daily lives

The new King's Cross is a fine example of what can be achieved when inspired architecture meets local activism

Henry Porter

The Observer, Sunday 25 March 2012


The new concourse at London's King's Cross station. Photograph: Raphael Satter/AP

Sometimes things go right. The opening of the new concourse at King's Cross station, designed by John McAslan and Partners, represents several triumphs. The most obvious is that visitors to the Olympics will receive a pretty fair impression of the capital when they arrive by rail or pass through the station to catch the Javelin train to east London. That's important, even if, like me, you are wary about the whole Olympic project and its huge costs.

Many outside London may wonder what the fuss is about or question whether the £500m cost of a glamorous portal was necessary in this straitened era, but the design is ingenious and, like all great architecture, radiates good feelings, which is not to be underestimated when 47 million people travel through the station each year. This is worth celebrating in itself but the graft of the new concourse on to the old 1850s terminus says much about the way the industrial past has been respected and incorporated throughout the huge King's Cross site, which spreads north of the St Pancras and King's Cross stations.

A tour from the new concourse station, past the renovated Great Northern hotel and German Gymnasium up to the Regent's Canal and the old Granary building, where the University of the Arts London is now housed, is exhilarating and makes you blink and ask yourself if this is really London. How on earth did we get so much right at King's Cross? You can even imagine the late John Betjeman, poet and champion of the Victorians, shuffling around the site and murmuring his approval. For something has fallen into place – we no longer need to assert our modernity by competing with the past.

This sophistication seems so unlike the routine failure of town planners over the last 70 years – the cock-ups, lack of imagination and compromise. And that thought brings me to the most important triumph at King's Cross – the largely unrecognised victory of activism and creative resistance by local people. But for them, the brutish capitalism of the Thatcher era would have almost certainly won. Thousands of homes and many wonderful Victorian buildings would have been demolished and replaced by dismal – and probably empty – office blocks, by private roads that barred access to the public and militated absolutely against workable communities.

What now unfolds at King's Cross is not simply a frantic modernised transport hub, but a neighbourhood with a mix of arts, learning, business and social housing; a balance of interests and an enlightened attempt to integrate the lives of the well off and not-so-flush. Not all of it works. Traffic at the end of the Euston Road is nightmarish, and the development takes too little notice of pedestrians and cyclists, one of whom was killed on her way to the University of Arts last October.

But compared to what might have been, King's Cross is a wonder and this is due principally not to politicians, developers, planners or local authorities, all of whom, at times, opted for commercially driven schemes, but, instead, to staunch local organisations, operating under the King's Cross Railway Lands Group (KXRLG), which has argued for a better vision for almost quarter of a century.

That requires staying power and a huge commitment of time. Indeed, in some cases people such as the economist and planning academic Michael Edwards have devoted much of their lives to obtaining the right solutions for King's Cross. Politicians and planners have come and gone, consortia have risen in boom times and gone bust, but Edwards and the KXRLG, which he chairs with Marian Larragy, stuck with their mission and now there is a beautiful new university campus and homes are about to be constructed.

Admittedly, this is mostly due to the economic slump, which means that the projects guaranteed by public money can be built, while finance for speculative development simply isn't available. Yet this priority had been steadily advocated and was there to be acted upon.

The main message is that the wisdom of citizens should routinely count for much more than it does in British planning, because it is always local people who understand the aspirations of their community and the way their particular public spaces work. Regeneration appears to be about structures, high finance and profit but, of course, it only really works if local people and their homes aren't swept aside by the interests of capitalism.

That is what was about to happen in the 80s under a secret plan by British rail which proposed sinking the Channel tunnel rail link in a long tunnel under south-east London that would have ended at an underground station at King's Cross, not above ground at St Pancras, as it does now. It would have entailed enormous demolition and the construction of offices around old buildings that would have been retained as quaint mementos of a bygone area, not the seeds of inspiration they are today. That was beaten off in the early 90s, because a downturn was the best ally of common sense, and for about 10 years nothing much happened. The KXRLG maintained a weather eye until the second challenge presented itself in 2000 during another boom time, which Edwards shrewdly described in his 2007 paper as "gross distortion of the UK economy in favour of financial and rentier capital against manufacturing capital". The Labour government and the mayor both favoured what Edwards called Livingstone's "business-friendly approach to spatial planning".

The plans were passed but Edwards and his crew kept on chipping away, challenging the government on its ideas about markets, business and economic growth, as well its bogus use of the phrase "sustainable community". In 2007, he raged: "What do you mean by sustainable communities? The families who live in the area can't afford to stay here. Their children can't afford to live here. If they want to form a household, they have to move 100km away."

Through a mixture of timely slump and adapted design we see the whole of the King's Cross site taking shape beautifully, with an emphasis on people and good public spaces. A pretty solid block of development will come about just north of the new concourse, which will include Google's new headquarters. Incidentally, it is hoped that this vastly wealthy company may find its way to financing a new bridge over the rail lines for pedestrians and cyclists to protect them from the traffic of the Euston Road intersection. (Or at least KXRLG and I thought it was a good idea when we talked on Friday!)

It is in the nature of campaigners never to accept credit or to proclaim victory – they are too modest and wary for that — but Edwards, Larragy and a few others certainly deserve our gratitude. Without them, things would not have gone nearly so well.

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