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.