Stations are no longer just a place to start or finish a journey, or to transfer to another mode. In many parts of the world, they have become extension of both business and leisure activity. As cities grow rapidly and residents move further out in search of living space, meeting colleagues, family and friends at a central location has been the norm for some time. But now this central location is not the usual a café or a restaurant but a swanky transport hub. In London, meeting at St. Pancras International, the new arrival point for Eurostar, has been considered trendy for quite some time. Its newly redeveloped neighbour across the road, Kings Cross Station, will just boost it further.
King’s Cross Station, named after a huge monument of King George IV, was designed by architect Lewis Cubitt and opened in 1852 . Once a busy industrial district, it went into economic decline following the 2nd World War. Here is a photo of the station, probably from the 1970s.
With the new high speed rail connection in early 2000 and the relocation of the Eurostar terminal from London Waterloo to St. Pancras, regeneration plans for Kings cross gained a new impetus.
The newly upgraded Kings Cross station has recently become open to public. Redeveloped at a cost of nearly £ 500 Million and over 5 years, the outcome is a space that has a snazzy airport terminal-like feel to it. Here are some photos I took recently:
The stunning roof of course catches one’s attention the moment you step in. Described as a ‘Diagrid’ roof it extends 150 metres from a support structure on the side, without any supporting columns in the centre. It has been described as the ‘head of the matchstick‘ by The Guardian. There is still a small bit of ongoing work that could continue into 2015 by some estimates. And of course a 67-acre area around the station is being redeveloped to offer offices, homes and a university
The Good Things:
- Information Screens: There are two sets at either end and seem easy to read. There is also a helpdesk area and other signange to guide travellers to the Underground, St. Pancras International, Taxis etc.
- Tactile flooring: The flooring has the appearance of hard tiles but has a soft rubbery feel on stepping. It’s been designed to provide a non-slip surface for travellers coming in from the wet- something that could happen a lot this coming May if weather forecasts are to be believed.
- Retail space: Coffee shops and quick bites for the busy traveller are on the ground floor, while on the ‘mezzanine’ level are proper sit-down restaurants including Prezzo and the family-friendly Giraffe.
And Other things:
- Announcements are loud (or the space inside makes them a bit echo-eprone on the mezzanine/ top levels). Good for the traveller, not so good for those trying to read a book or have conversation in the cafes/ restaurants.
- One can’t help noticing that free seating is quite sparse and café/ restaurant seating abounds. Yes, the plan is to get people spending money, and I suppose the loud announcements ensure that you don’t have to stand in front of the info screens when you could be helping KX Inc making some moolah!
- Apparently the station is also home to the biggest pub in a British Rail Station, or perhaps any rail station.Knowing the British penchant for ‘one for the road’ I can say without hesitation this will not stay empty. Whether it will offer the same ambience as the Champagne Bar across the road at St Pancras International or pull the crowds like the Betjeman Arms does, remains to be seen !
A photo of KX’s Swanky neighbour- St Pancras International.
An interesting fact to end the post: Apparently the British Railways were responsible for creating the concept of a ‘bar area’ in a pub where you had to go up and order your drink/ food. Before that you would get served at tables. It all began at Swindon station in 1840. And it was all part of a revenue-maximising strategy to recover capital investment by making sure all trains stopped at Swindon and customers could get ‘fast-food’ and drinks on the go. Hmm…. that does sound familiar somehow!