Today the 75,000 sq ft plaza at the front of King’s Cross Station in London was opened to the public by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Network Rail’s Chief Executive Sir David Higgins, Secretary of State of Transport Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin and a number of Victorian-themed ‘living statues’, celebrating the final stage of an immense transformation project at this integral transport interchange.
WAN joined an exclusive press tour of the new site yesterday and, as can be seen by the shot posted to our Facebook page, the plaza was still populated with construction workers making final adjustments. Work continued throughout the night to reach the high standards we have come to expect from the Stirling Prize-winning architects behind the design, Stanton Williams.
As Allen Stanton explained yesterday, his firm are the ‘Johnny-come-latelies’ to the redevelopment of King’s Cross Station having started on the project in 2009 compared to John McAslan + Partners’ programme with Arup which began in 1997. The latter’s work at the station has been highly praised by architecture and infrastructure bodies worldwide, taking home a plethora of prizes including a shortlisting in WAN’s inaugural Transport Awards.
The £550m redevelopment of King’s Cross Station was initiated in light of a vast surge in passenger numbers passing through the outdated and crowded station complex. The project has been overseen by Network Rail, an organisation that owns the infrastructure of the UK’s rail system but only manages the 17 biggest stations as these top 17 sites see more than 70% of the UK’s rail traffic.
Described by Programme Manager at Network Rail Matthew Tolan as a project of ‘national importance’, the King’s Cross redevelopment has already had a dramatic effect on the internal workings of the station. One of the most impressive features is the restoration of the Main Train Shed (image 1) which is now illuminated by vast quantities of light which penetrates through its 250m-long roof, graced with photovoltaic panels which supply 10% of the station’s electricity.
It is also impossible to mention King’s Cross without drawing attention to the breathtaking Western Range and Western Concourse with its freestanding vaulted concourse supported by 16 steel ‘trees’, drawn down into a glorious funnel in front of the ticket office.
Today’s celebrations focused on the external King’s Cross Square, replacing the widely-resented canopies and hording that have littered the front of the station for a long time. A number of elements protrude from the London Underground rail system beneath the plaza (the ceiling of which is only 30cm below the surface of the plaza in some parts) including ‘The Egg’, a stairway to the Tube ticket hall and a ventilation shaft.
These elements have been incorporated into the design of the square with a lightweight canopy created between the ventilation shaft and ticket hall stairs for Londoners to shelter or purchase their morning coffee.
Stripes of pale and dark grey granite line the floor of King’s Cross Square, yesterday dulled with construction dust and now polished to perfection. The dark grey granite can also be found in the exterior of The Egg, the ventilation shaft and a series of seating elements and planters with low-maintenance trees. Compulsory security measures including a super-impact ring of bollards have been incorporated into some of these 'areas of calm'.
Passengers can now access the London Underground service from two points on the station plaza under the shadow of the freshly-unveiled historic façade. This is the first time in 150 years that the station’s full façade has been on show to the public and Stanton Williams have been working in close contact with English Heritage to ensure that passers-by can enjoy full views of the façade from the majority of vantage points (see the elegant LED lighting rods as a prime example).
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson concluded: "The transformation of King's Cross is not only beautiful but it has also triggered all sorts of regeneration, with new jobs, huge numbers of homes being built and businesses relocating here. What has emerged is a fantastic open space which has led to the creation of a whole new vibrant district. It is the perfect example of a point I have always made, if you support good transport links the jobs and growth will follow."