London’s King’s Cross Station is a historical masterpiece that has become synonymous with British rail travel and the merits of Victorian architecture. The original building was first opened in 1852 having been constructed by the Great Northern Railway under the direction of George Turnbull and Lewis Cubitt, and named after King George IV and its location in King’s Cross.
Over the past one hundred and fifty years, numerous extensions and adaptations have rendered the Victorian treasure difficult to navigate and reduced its architectural appeal. In an effort to return the station to its former glory - and cater to the 47 million annual passengers that pass through - Network Rail instigated a mammoth restoration and modernisation project in the late 1990s, enlisting the help of experienced conservation specialists John McAslan + Partners to develop a complex master plan worthy of this Victorian giant.
In the 1980s, Foster + Partners began work on a groundbreaking scheme for King’s Cross which strengthened connections between the station and the neighbouring St Pancras International transport hub, creating direct links between the North of England and the Eurostar trains to Paris and beyond. Passengers entered the 1852 King’s Cross Station building from the western side, through the ticket halls towards the main train shed and platforms.
After numerous additions and alterations this journey had become fractured, with passengers flooding the platforms from all angles. John McAslan’s concept looks to reinstate this original journey and form a consistent pedestrian flow throughout the transport hub.
The £500m project opened on 19th March 2012 and includes the insertion of a dramatic Western Concourse, the sensitive restoration and re-use of the train shed and range buildings, the reintroduction of a Grade I listed façade, repair work for damages sustained during World War Two and realigned wayfinding throughout the station.
Transformation projects of this nature are destined to face planning constraints and structural barriers, and for the King’s Cross Station redevelopment this centred on the Grade I listed Western Range building. Protected by English Heritage, it was stipulated that the new roof structure for the Western Concourse was not to place any load on the Range building so engineers Arup was forced to seek an alternative approach.
In response, the team suggested a diagrid system supported by an immense funnel and sixteen ‘tree’ columns, each of which supports 1.5 metric tonnes of castings. Rising 20m from the station floor, the white fluted structure spans the entire 150m width of the Grade I listed Western Range drawing attention to the beautiful heritage architecture beneath which has been uncovered for the first time since 1972.
Composed of 1,212 triangular panels, the diagrid roof structure of the Western Concourse enables the 7,500 sq m public space to rely largely on natural daylighting, enhancing the station’s sustainability credentials. Within this concourse is an array of retail outlets which give the volume the feel of an airport rather than a conventional station facility. These modern facilities are contrasted with the original 1852 Booking Hall which has been sensitively restored and now offers a double-height, five-bay space directly behind the towering structural funnel.
Key construction and renovation works have been completed and the Western Concourse at King’s Cross is now officially open to the public. The roof of the Main Train Shed is due for completion in time for the London 2012 Olympics, after which the roof canopy on Euston Road will be removed ready for the introduction of a buzzing new public plaza. Only then will London’s King’s Cross be restored to its former splendour.