King’s Cross Redevelops with Buildings and Apps

by Andrew Wade

Main space of the new Western Concourse.

After a £500-million redevelopment, the new Western Concourse of London's King's Cross Station is now in use. The project, which opened less than five months before the 2012 Olympic Games, is a high-profile success and a needed reconsideration of urban infrastructure in the area. Led by Hiro Aso, architects John McAslan + Partners have articulated a beautiful and complex design with re-used, restored and newly built components. Designed in collaboration with engineering expertise from Arup, the structure and lighting collectively lend a dynamic yet graceful quality to the space.

The new entrance, adjacent to the original station.

The flowing roof structure extends outside to form a canopy over the new entrance.

A Grade I listed façade of the original Western Range building has been restored and unveiled as a backdrop to a white, diagrid shell structure, which emerges from 50 meters within the earth to envelop the new concourse. The building triples the size of the station and is part of a larger vision for the regeneration of King's Cross, which is set to receive its own post code.

Diagrid shell structure over two levels of retail units.

The structure touches down only along the perimeter, leaving a column-free central space.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has seized this moment to document the design of the Western Concourse. For five months this year, it will host a display on the design process of the architects and engineers involved. In addition, Guardian News and Media Limited have created an app that allows you to listen to stories about the previous lives of various sites in King's Cross. These “streetstories” can narrate based on your location using a smartphone with GPS, so the historical strata of the site can be experienced in-situ.

Integrated structure and lighting above the mezzanine level.

The mezzanine level of retail units stands as an independent, sculptural form.

How might this newly accessible urban history affect perceptions of the King's Cross Redevelopment? Now we are able to see new buildings assuming their functions while listening to stories about what they have replaced. As this urban feedback takes place, will we become more sensitive to the stepped evolution of our cities and respond to that in a critical way? Can apps alter expectations of design?

Restored façade of the Western Range behind the structurally independent addition.

The electronic train departure board in the distance, beyond the restored façade.

Credits: Photos by Andrew Wade.

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  1. very much enjoyed your photos and commentary. this building owes a certain debt to foster, no?

  2. Thank you for your comment. I see the main similarity in the use of a white diagonal grid structure, as Foster + Partner employs in 30 St. Mary Axe, and in the fluid form of the retail mezzanine. However, I think some comparisons happen because Foster + Partners is simply so prominent internationally that they may appear to be leading design trends when in reality they may be exploring similar design strategies in parallel with other, smaller practices. Since Arup was integral to the design and engineering of both the Western Concourse and 30 St. Mary Axe, I feel that Arup might actually be the strongest common link between many new projects from different architects.

  3. The Guardian also makes an interesting reference to Norman Foster and Richard Rogers when reviewing the Western Concourse. They abstract it to merely the "big metal roof" but it is interesting to see how it has been updated and streamlined over time.

  4. i was thinking mainly of the great court at the british museum, and there are a few other examples here somehow i just associate curving grids with foster, but good points about parallel development in other firms and the connection with engineering possibilities.

  5. Absolutely! Foster + Partners have certainly refined their use of curving grids to become a signature element of their work. The Great Court of the British Museum is a striking example and a very beautiful space. It is a great practice, in London especially, to bring in some much-needed natural light. Thanks for bringing up these examples!


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