Life on Kings Cross Square

Kings Cross Square - day one of operation


At last Network Rail and their partners have finished the Kings Cross station programme and now the Kings Cross community has a new public space to live with.  This morning, now the celebrities have departed we can start to work out how people might use the square. On a cursory inspection it is to sit around and have a fag or a snack while waiting for the train.  Or to be hunched over staring manically into a phone.  Sean has already written about an incipient litter problem.  It was never going to be a restful place as people charge about to and from the tube and of course those walking from the East can’t get in the station at the side any more.  It’s nice to see the news stand still there.

The space is currently cluttered, not un-attractively with a rent-a-carnival for weekend celebrations. And i am conscious of how polluted it is next to the dire Euston Road. But overall it’s a vast improvement on what was there before, built in extremely challenging technical conditions on top of the River Fleet conduit and the underground tunnels.  The eye-lid shelter looks a little heavy, but personally i prefer it to a light mock heritage design and suspect the heaviness is design will be some sort of bomb proofing.  It is as utilitarian in modern materials as the station itself was.

I thought I spotted in the PR stuff (but have now lost) some reference to public art – hopefully implementing the empty plinth idea first mooted by this website (like Trafalgar Square). There has been a lot of trumpeting for the construction trades who delivered the project and all credit to them, but as ever people have developed a blind spot to the huge cost over runs – £550m project total according Stanton Williams the architect against estimates of over £150million less when the project started.  This is why railways cost so much.

The immediate Kings Cross like any area around a major rail terminus anywhere in the world will never be all fragrance and light.  The real test now for the people who run the square (and we need to be absolutely clear about who is responsible for what to hold them to account BTP or the Met, TfL, NR or CC etc etc) is to maintain a safe and welcoming environment, look after people down on their luck and keep it clean and well maintained.  There’s a world of difference between the early spell with a PR budget and shiny newness and then living with a place long term when there’s no money and management interest wanes.  Just look at the depressing yet functional shanty town of food joints and cheap picnic benches in front of Euston, once itself a shiny picture of modernity.

Anyway it’s a lot better and we might now have to change the banner image of this site….

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Kings Cross Station Refurbishment. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Life on Kings Cross Square

  1. Sophie Talbot says:

    I was pleased the architect mentioned the trees in the new square which the community fought so hard for, but we’d also called for imaginative use of water and he said you can’t mix water with train stations. Sheffield City need to be told then that their beautiful steel wall water fall and water filled stepped feature and fountains were such a bad idea!

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Will, a good summary. Lets hope Camden step up with maintenance – continuous rubbish clearance and longer term work. I have similar views of the eye-lid, heavier than I expected, but not unattractively so. My other two design annoyances (which are going to continue to frustrate me) are the lack of anti-skateboard-nobbles on the benches – these are ideal surfaces and will get damaged quickly – I can’t understand how people who design public spaces can’t immediately see the attractiveness of some surfaces to skateboarders). The second is the tiling within the Northern, Victoria and Piccadilly Line. Again I can’t understand how tube designers can’t see that that type of tiling (with lots of grout) is going to look grubby within days. When my folks visited me, they asked when they were planning to refurbish the deep line tracks – and that was just after they had been done. I think they looked better / cleaner before the refurb!

  3. Chris says:

    Sophie, the fountains at Sheffield are not a couple of feet above an underground ticket hall – if you look at what the Granary Square fountains involved it simply wasn’t an option here.

  4. Stuart Cottis says:

    Will – good article. I have a few immediate observations:
    1. The square is a massive improvement on the green carbuncle of socialist planning!
    2. There is of course deserved praise for some of the contractors. However, have you noticed the quality of the paving? Near the ventilation shaft nearest to Euston Road the paving surface is unbelievably uneven and shoddy. I suspect some of the sub-contractors were rushing to get the job finished and I would be surprised if Network Rail don’t claim against the sub-contractors (or, more likely, sub-sub-contractors) especially as Camden Council may get hit with trips and slips claims.
    3. My above comment would seem to be backed up by the notice that the main tube entrance will remain closed until November due to theft of materials and problems with contractors.

  5. Nick Duff says:

    Its a mess with RUBBISH!!!
    sort it out!!!

  6. Chris says:

    Stuart – It seems they ran out of time, and so did some temporary finished to get it open. That should get fixed at the same time as they finish off the vent cladding and the final sections of paving.

  7. Shapka says:

    sweep all the rubbish up and give it back to McDonalds over the road, tis where it came from, problem solved !

  8. Andrew says:

    I do see McDonalds out every morning washing the footpath outside their shop. Admittedly their rubbish is spread wider, but it is good to see a shop making some effort.

  9. Shapka says:

    That’s how they spread it wider, they probably own a leaf blower too !

  10. Tom says:

    On the whole I think the scheme is brilliant but how long do you think it will be before someone figures out the lack of access from the East is a stupid idea and that it’s still a nightmare to cross the road to Greys Inn Road?

  11. Pingback: Argent’s King’s X development | FJR.FORSYTH | MSc Real Estate Student

  12. Andrew says:

    Last night coming through the square (late) there were a number of people on BMX’s doing tricks off the seating. Worth checking out damage to the surfaces from the stunt pegs?

  13. Pingback: Kings Cross Square – sausages out, sandwiches in | Kings Cross Environment

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