A peek at the new concourse

The “glass pasty”, the “string vest”, the “eyelid” – the western concourse for King’s Cross will not be open for business until next Monday – but it has already acquired a load of nicknames to describe its curved roof and lattice of steelwork.

From the morning of 19 March, passengers will enter the station from the west side instead of the front. I’m sure the neckache-inducing southern concourse will be missed by few, except perhaps by those who will now have a longer walk. The old space will be progressively shut down as soon as the Olympics are over.

It hasn’t been without its headaches, but during construction, most of King’s Cross stayed open, with work going on “on either side, above, and in some cases, below” the platforms.

Tom Fernley, a retail delivery manager for Network Rail showed me around this week. He said about the project’s staging: “We liken it to open heart surgery on a person; we’re having to get into the station while it’s still functioning and everything’s still working, and pull it apart and fundamentally reconfigure it.”

He tells me that the thousands of tiny round white tiles that give the concourse’s mezzanine its “glomesh” detail were made by hand in Scotland. Laying them around the compound curves was a prize pain. The finished effect is beautiful, but you can spot where the tilers struggled.

The little white tiles instantly remind me of the cost and design controversies of the Sydney Opera House. And opinion will likely be divided along the same lines for this ambitious and expensive structure.

Meanwhile in the Grade I-listed old station, Harry Potter pilgrims have been robbed of  atmospheric Victorian grime after the roof restoration, now sunlight streams in. But they might be consoled by the dedicated new shop. The Platform 9 and 3/4 trolley “shrine” will stop moving after seven years and rest permanently near the interface between the old and the new buildings.

Also opening next week and nestled away in the old station is a pub fashioned from the old parcel office and themed with suitcases, tickets and other rail memorabilia.

The removal of the grim green corrugated iron canopy and the completion of the square at the front of the station are due for September 2013.

More pictures

Clare Hill

King's Cross western concourse

About Clare Hill

Clare is a writer and editor who lived in King’s Cross for a decade. She is passionate about local history, transport and food. Contact Clare by commenting on her posts or go to http://www.clarehill.net
This entry was posted in Architecture, Kings Cross Station Refurbishment, Transport. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A peek at the new concourse

  1. Sophie Talbot says:

    Hi Clare… have you read the past stuff on the refurb on the site? It’d’ve been good to link your article with the others here otherwise it reads rather like a PR piece for Network Rail….. Sos!

    • Clare Hill says:

      Yes and was mindful of that. My purpose was to write up what I saw and some facts about opening. Is there an editorial line that every post about the concourse opening must take a view on the cost or the access? I think there is room for different posters and kinds of posts here.

  2. Sophie Talbot says:

    Yes, to a degree… But it’s only polite (and good research) to quote previous articles on the site. Also it gives readers a clearer context of the diversity of views etc. It’s not about editorial line for me, it’s about robustness… There are many, many issues involved in this one story, not just Will’s posts about cost or KXRLG points on access, there’s also (among many other things) NR’s failure to involve the community, lies being told, promises broken etc… There’s so much PR for NR at the mo, I just feel uncomfortable that this site should join in uncritically…

    • Clare Hill says:

      Thanks Sophie I considered that but given that the post is next to mine and got wide coverage I felt it was unnecessary to say: see other post. I have written about the concourse development before, and as you say there is a whole backstory of many many posts. Again I think there’s room for diversity.

  3. Sophie Talbot says:

    Diversity yes… Not linking research-wise… for me no! It’s standard practice for me to make sure each article stands on its own, with it’s own links to give context, history, story development etc! But I think that might just be me so no worries…. 🙂

  4. Andrew says:

    A great piece of architecture. With this station, local businesses, the university, corporate tenants seen as innovators in their respective fields, as well as committed residents and local government, I am hoping the positive buzz around King’s Cross continues!

  5. sean murray says:

    There’s genuine concern that access from the east side of King’s Cross is now worse. This could have easily been remedied by the inclusion of a bridge at the rear of the station – something that’s been reported on here many times. There’s also a question mark over whether Network Rail overspent. Those issues aside, I have not seen or a heard anything but joy that one of London’s worst landmarks is now a place we can be proud to call a welcome to the capital city. A trawl of social media chatter this week is so telling: gone are the moans, groans and bad mouthing of King’s Cross, replaced by recognition that the railways are back and so is King’s Cross. We’ll have to wait and see if Will’s concern on passenger movement proves correct – the original passenger flow thingy we were treated to at an early network rail presentation, suggest they’ve thought this through. To be honest, other than a subterranean solution, this was the best option. As for retail, although I’ve already had tweets from pals concerned at the lack of a (drunken) BK on the way home to Herts, the mix simply reflects an overdue catch up with comparable places. That said, and I am a fan, I’ve no idea why American Apparel are in the station although I’m sure there ethical practices will be a massive hit with many who contribute to this forum.

    And while I’m on, I think the smell from Pancras square is getting worse. Smells like a glue factory.

  6. sean murray says:

    …and Will, are you going to change the header to this site (The green canopy sign picture)? We could run a comp to design a new one?

  7. Arkady says:

    A bridge at the rear is part of the future development of Zone A. Pressure should be applied to ensure it is included in the fortcoming planning application from Google.

  8. Andrew says:

    Arkady – is there new info here regarding the bridge? I understood the bridge was in the original plan but Argent were only obliged to keep a hole in their building (or their plans for a building) for a fixed number of years (until 2011? 2012?) and if funding was not found they could plan not to have a hole in their building (and make more rentable space)…..anything new happening here?

  9. Arkady, it’d be fab if you do have new information about the bridge at the rear. I have the same understanding as Andrew, that Argent have a Section 106 obligation to site the bridge on the western side only if funding is found and works started prior to end 2012…. Google would win a heck of alot of friends if they helped get this bridge built – a great metaphor for them to use too!!!

  10. Arkady says:

    Only what I was told at a KXDF meeting I’m afraid, nothing specific. But given that Google are not short of money and will be putting in a planning application shortly now might be a good time to start a campaign. At the very least room should be left for one to be built in future.

  11. tobiaskx says:

    Good article Clare. The new pub is a very welcome addition to Kings Cross’s watering holes. Although its beautiful I’m not sure if any of those names (“glass pasty”, the “string vest”, the “eyelid”) will stick though.

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