What to do on a wet May Bank Holiday? Go sightseeing in Kings Cross, of course!
The area around Kings Cross is undergoing something of a rejuvenation at the moment, focused around the redevelopment of St Pancras and Kings Cross stations and the major new development on former railway land to the north of the stations. With the British Library, Regent’s Canal and Old St Pancras Parish Church all a short walk away, in my opinion this is one of the most underrated parts of London.
The weather today was not really favourable for a walk along the canal, but no matter as the main purpose of the outing was to visit the new West Concourse at Kings Cross station. This was opened just a few weeks ago and has already been the subject of rave reviews. The semi-circular canopy, which has a span of 52m, is a truly impressive structure. As Rowan Moore writes in the Guardian, the roof structure “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.”
At £500m, it should be good, although the cost of the project also includes refurbishment of the 160 year old station and the construction of new platforms. I particularly liked the contrast between the modern steel structure with its organic curves and the yellow stock brick Victorian station walls. We didn’t spend much time looking at the older part of the station (the platforms are behind ticket barriers) but everything has been cleaned up, including the glass in the twin barrel roofs, which allows much more natural light into the station.
Leaving through the north exit of the concourse it is just a short walk to St Pancras International Station. As we were walking through the shopping area in the lower level, I realised that between the two stations combined there are more shops than many a town shopping centre (some of them pretty up market). Of the two stations I think I prefer Kings Cross is the more interesting development, with the new concourse offering a more interesting space than the linear shopping mall of St Pancras. My main complaint at both stations is that there are no seats apart from those at the food outlets (presumably to encourage us all to patronise the restaurants if we want to sit down). And at St Pancras it is a long walk from the entrance of the station on Euston Road to the platforms at the far end of the station. It would have been nice if travelators had been installed. Or at least some seats to rest on the way.
Further photos of Kings Cross can be found here.