“It’s incredible to watch the reinvention of the station taking shape into a compelling piece of place-making for London. You can already see how the Western Concourse – Europe’s largest single span station structure and the heart of the development – reconnects this much-loved Victorian terminus to its context. It’s immensely satisfying to see the project move forward at such pace and we look forward to celebrating the project’s completion in 2012 for the London Olympics.”-John McAslan, Chairman John McAslan + Partners
With multi-phased, major works to Kings Cross station well advanced and the dramatic new Western Concourse in the process of being completed, the significance of the King’s Cross Station redevelopment is becoming increasingly apparent day by day.
As lead architects and masterplanners, John McAslan + Partners’ (JMP’s) transformation of King’s Cross Station for Network Rail is an object lesson in the fusion of three very different styles of architecture: re-use, restoration and new build. The train shed and range buildings have been adapted and re-used, the station’s obscured Grade I listed façade has been very precisely restored, and a new, highly expressive Western Concourse has been designed as a centrepiece and the beating heart of the project. When the works to the station are complete and it opens to the public in March 2012, the transformed station and its memorable new Western Concourse will take on the role of a new, iconic architectural gateway to the city in time for the 2012 London Olympics. This structure re-orientates the station to the west, creating significant operational improvements and revealing the main south façade of Lewis Cubitt’s original 1852 station, a masterpiece that has been hidden behind a canopy since 1972.
Although the Western Concourse is probably the most visually striking change to the station, JMP’s work on the project also involves a series of layered interventions and restorations that started with the completed restoration of the Eastern Range building (finished in 2009) and will also see the Main Train Shed, Suburban Train Shed and Western Range buildings revitalised.
Having begun work on the project in 1998 and establishing the masterplan for the development in 2005, John McAslan + Partners has played a key role in the profound infrastructural, social and commercial changes occurring in the area, connecting the station with the massive King’s Cross Central scheme north of the station as well as connecting to St Pancras, the London Underground, and surrounding context. The architectural ambition of JMP’s scheme recognises the opportunity to drive meaningful urban improvement in this part of the city, whilst also allowing King’s Cross Station to cope with increasing passenger numbers, which are thought to reach 50 million a year by 2012. WESTERN CONCOURSE The centrepiece of the £500m redevelopment is the new vaulted, semi-circular concourse to the west of the existing station. The concourse rises some 20m and spans the full 150m-length of the existing Grade I Listed Western Range, creating a new entrance to the station through the south end of the structure and at mezzanine level on the northern end of the Western Concourse.
Designed by John McAslan + Partners, and engineered by Arup, the 7,500sqm concourse has become Europe’s largest single-span station structure, comprising of 16 steel tree form columns that radiate from an expressive, tapered central funnel. The graceful circularity of the concourse echoes the form of the neighbouring Great Northern Hotel, with the ground floor of the hotel providing access to the concourse. The Western Concourse runs delicately alongside the façade of the Western Range, clearly revealing the restored brickwork and masonry features of the original station. From the concourse’s dramatic interior space passengers can reach the platforms either through the ground level gate-lines in the Ticket Hall via the Western Range building, or by using the mezzanine level gate-line, which leads onto the new cross–platform footbridge.
Sitting above the new London Underground northern ticketing hall, and with retail elements at mezzanine level, the concourse will transform passenger facilities, whilst also enhancing links to the London Underground, and bus, taxi and train connections at St Pancras. The concourse is set to become an architectural gateway to the King’s Cross Central mixed-use developments, a key approach to the eastern entrance of St Pancras International. It will also act as an extension to King’s Cross Square, a new plaza that will be formed between the station’s southern façade and Euston Road. WESTERN RANGE Iconic design is matched at King’s Cross Station by considered architectural interventions. King’s Cross Western Range is the historic station’s biggest component and will provide the greatest range of uses. Complex in plan, and articulated in five buildings, its renewal will deliver greatly improved working conditions for the station staff, train-operating companies and Network Rail management teams. The Northern Wing, destroyed by bombing in World War II, has been rebuilt to its original design. The reinstatement of the Western Range by JMP will deliver key gated connections, including a new gate-line at the southern end, which will become the main point of connection between the Western Concourse and the platforms of the Main Train Shed.
MAIN TRAIN SHED The station’s Main Train Shed is 250m long, 22m high and 65m wide, spanning eight platforms. It is being transformed by John McAslan + Partners’ several major interventions. The bold architecture of the main south façade will be re-exposed and is in the process of being restored, whilst the north and south gables are being re-glazed and platforms are also being extensively refurbished. In addition, the brickwork is being cleaned and any ad hoc accretions and outdated services stripped out.
The two barrel-vaulted roofs are currently being refurbished, with the first section of the work soon to be unveiled, and are being lined with energy-saving photo-voltaic arrays along the linear roof lanterns. JMP has designed a new glass footbridge – which has recently been installed – to extend across the Main Train Shed, replacing the old mid-shed Handyside bridge and giving access to every platform as well as the mezzanine level of the concourse. JMP’s design integrates the main and suburban train sheds for the first time, creating a completely coherent groundplan for passenger movements into and through the station. Improvements to the Suburban Train Shed located to the north of the Western Concourse and Western Range buildings will enhance the operation of its three platforms (the busiest in the station during peak-hours at King’s Cross).
Network Rail’s ambitious transformation of the station, with John McAslan + Partners as lead architect, creates a remarkable dialogue between Cubitt’s original station and 21st Century architecture, marking a shift in strategic infrastructural design in the UK. This relationship between old and new will raise King’s Cross position to that of a modern transport super hub, whilst revitalising and unveiling one of the great railway monuments of Britain.