The Art of Civil Engineering

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I don’t really associate England (or Britain for that matter) with grand capital projects involving massive iron structures and huge empty areas of public space. Obviously projects happen from time to time, but the process is always a bit grudging, a bit mean, lacking in real vision or nerve.

The French, for example, do this sort of thing much better. Think Eiffel Tower. Or Pompidou centre. Or even the wholesale sweeping changes wrought by Baron Haussmann. (Luckily Le Corbusier’s plans to “do a Haussmann” were nipped in the bud, because some grand capital projects should never see the light of day).

But now we English have Kings Cross station. The new version. Even more impressive than next door St Pancras.

On a very last minute flying visit to London for work, I was left open-mouthed in stunned amazement this morning on descending the train. Expecting to see the usual pigeon marked greyness of one of the ugliest stations on the planet (redeemed only in the imagination by Harry Potter’s magical walled entry to platform 9 1/2), I found myself propelled towards a light-filled zone in a Hogwarts-like other-worldly manner.

Ladies in brand new uniforms were trying to prevent this migration towards the light. “Departures only!” they announced. But I was not to be deterred. I slipped away from the herd of arrivals, blagged my way through a ticket barrier and entered the New World that is now Kings Cross.

It is stunning. Amazing. I wondered how long it had been like that and why I hadn’t heard about it before? Was that what all those eternal works had been about? I had assumed it was just a nice covered walkway connecting the neighbouring stations.

But no. And it seems it may have only just opened. I might have been one of the very first arrivals. How very exciting!

Lots of people were taking photos. What with photo opportunities and all the new shops, this is now a place to linger in, not rush through at the last minute.

Worth the journey.

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