New Concourse, Kings Cross Station, London
April 13, 2012
The recently opened entrance/ticket Hall building at Kings Cross by John McAslan Partners deservedly impresses the users of London transport system as the long overdue functional improvements are so obviously noticeable.
I have been observing the structure rise and my instincts were beginning to cause concern the way the ‘1/2 flying saucer’ roof landed in between two of the greatest railway sheds and Great Victorian extravaganza of Midland Grand Hotel.
My first visit to the building was indeed rewarded by a very impressive looking solution for users of both railway stations and the Underground system. My doubts about roof and the footprint of the building failed to subside and an extra concern about the new visual language added discomfort to my personal impressions of this building by a very gifted architect, next to some of the best buildings of last two centuries in London.
Easiest way to summarise these concerns will be to compare Henry Barlow’s and Cubitt’s sheds as two huge whales somehow arrived from northerly direction and got beached on Euston Road. Barlow’s whale hade an elaborate Venetian Mask made by Gilbert Scott (a work of art in its own right) and Cubitt’s whale displayed its honest face in its rugged beauty.
All of a sudden a truncated ‘jelly fish’ like creatures is found between the two sheds attached to one side of Cubitt’s shed. It goes without saying that the public admired their huge rib cages as a wonder of creation and natural selection (Darwin 1809-1882) and acquired a special status putting even ‘mediocre’ work by Cubitt on a pedestal labelled ‘Do not touch’. I feel that the accident of history trapped the curved Great Northern Hotel by Cubitt in a position which obstructed any sensible additions to meet functions which have drastically altered over last few decades. This also led architects in architectural directions which I am certain he would not have followed under different circumstances.
The new building’s half circular shape is generated by Cubitt’s hotel, an uncomfortable fit; evolving an alien/new language with references to Gaudi (Parc Guell), Eero Saarinen, Pier Lugi Nervi and Calatrava. The visible new roofscape in this urban context is an unfortunate judgement. McAslan was robbed of producing a notable building of 21st Century to stand next to masterpieces of 19th century, all because someone wanted to preserve a building without any meaningful significance for future generations.