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King’s Cross Station: a Soaring Concourse Revitalizes a Classic London Station

John McAslan + Partners

King’s Cross Station: a Soaring Concourse Revitalizes a Classic London Station
By Michael Webb -

Britain led the world in the development of railways and, though it has fallen far behind other west European countries over the past 40 years, its vast network of lines is still intensively used. The huge volume of travelers has strained the capacity of London’s 13 major stations, most of which were built a century or more ago. As recently as the 1960s, King’s Cross and neighboring St Pancras were threatened with destruction; now they are cherished as historic landmarks, and this has compounded the problem of upgrading their facilities. For a long time, expediency ruled, with mediocre additions clinging to the old buildings like barnacles on a ship’s hull. Ambitious plans were made and shelved, investment lagged, but the coming of the Olympics brought a new sense of urgency. The soaring red-brick hotel that fronts St Pancras has been impeccably restored, and a new glass canopy for the Eurostar has been added to the rear. A hemispherical concourse of steel and glass designed by John McAslan + Partners complements the yellow-brick shell of King’s Cross and opens out onto a shared plaza. This concourse is one the grandest interiors in the city - a worthy heir to the Crystal Palace, the Great Palm House at Kew, and other triumphs of Victorian engineering. A cluster of white steel columns snake up the west façade of the 1852 building, and arch over the concourse like the branches of a tree. Natural light pours in from skylights at either end and from above the “trunk” casting a pattern of shadows across the brickwork. A mezzanine gallery, accessed from elevators at either end, undulates around the outer perimeter, providing a vantage point for diners at a succession of restaurants. Retail is tucked in beneath and the canopy extends over the forecourt and links up with the restored station hotel. The plan restores the clarity of circulation that the original structure had, in contrast to most contemporary stations and airport terminals, which resemble shopping malls...

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