London's Kings Cross is a great old train station in need of a face lift. And now it has it. In anticipation of the upcoming summer Olympics, a spectacular new entrance and concourse has been built, to the tune of half a billion pounds ($ 793M).
The station is a huge transportation hub, with 45 million people coming through it every year. Most famously, platform 9 3/4, known to all Harry Potter fans, is located in the old part of this station.
The dazzling new concourse, which is an addition to the exterior wall of the old station, was designed by John McAslan + Partners. It is both futuristic and traditional. Serving as an entry point for people coming in from the subway or street to buy tickets and catch their trains, it leads off to the train platforms.
When you enter it is a jaw-dropping surprise: all clean and spare, with a lattice-like roof which spreads out like a canopy over the huge lobby. The roof, made out of steel and glass, has a span of 52 metres. Because it is a canopy it is wide open and un-fussy. The atrium is two stories high. The original booking hall from 1852 has been re-opened in the five bays.
The roof is supported by a huge central "stalk" which spreads out to a series of 16 small tree columns around the edges of the station.
There is a lovely swooping balcony up one level where there are (more) restaurants and places to sit. There is a footbridge which leads across to the old part of the station.
As for the benefits, a Network Rail spokesman said: 'The shell-shaped glass and steel building provides three times the space of the current station concourse with better facilities, new links with the Tube, better links to near-by St Pancras station, more shops and restaurants, larger destination boards and clearer station announcements.'
The domed roof is constructed from 1,200 tons of steel. Fifteen percent of the roof is glass, which allows for lots of natural light in the huge space. According to the architects, the 7,500sqm concourse has become Europe’s largest single-span station structure,
The new front entrance is a disappointment. From the outside it is nondescript and seems to have nothing to do with the surroundings.
King's Cross was formerly a shabby, down at the heels area. The station, the renovation of the magnificent St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel next door, and the moving of the Eurostar Terminal to the area are all part of a massive regeneration of the area.