Seen through fresh eyes

The new concourse at King’s Cross station, designed by John McAslan and Partners, doesn’t have a clock. But who needs one to meet under when you can meet instead at the base of the fantastic structure that supports the roof?

The new concourse at King’s Cross station, designed by John McAslan and Partners, doesn’t have a clock. But who needs one to meet under when you can meet instead at the base of the fantastic structure that supports the roof?

That was the place where this morning I met 25 people going on an Open City tour of the area. It was the first time that I had led a tour, and it was interesting to see the different perspectives. Why wasn’t there a clock? No idea. Was the steel that supported the structure solid or hollow? Hollow. Already before we set off there were two questions I had not expected. 

We walked around part of the new King’s Cross development, and also visited both railway stations, King’s Place, and tried to go to the British Library. Tried because it was locked, so we couldn’t penetrate the courtyard as I had hoped.

I hope they enjoyed it. They said thank you, but then the sort of people who come on tours are polite. But it is fascinating to meet a group of interested and intelligent people who do not have an architectural background (although there was at least one quantity surveyor). We walked through the Regent Quarter, a series of courtyards with recreated and restored buildings, and that was almost the favourite. I had carefully checked that I knew the names of the architects for all the schemes we discussed, and I don’t think anybody cared.

But the German Gymnasium – why is it German? The Arthouse – what do the flats cost? The canal museum (not part of the tour but seen across the water) – does it still run tours of the Islington Tunnel? Once you move out of the safe parameters of architectural criticism, you meet real people with real questions.

For these people, self-selected because they were on the tour, architecture was interesting but it was only interesting as part of a wider interest in life. Which is, of course, exactly as it should be.

Ruth Slavid

Latest from Our Blog