King’s Cross Station has traditionally been a sober friend in relation to its shouty neighbour at St Pancras, which was always ready for a party even when it was down and out. Lewis Cubitt designed a building that looks like a station – it could be nothing else – like the sort of object that a child might place alongside a play track. The elevation of the two great sheds extruded into its southern façade to form a pair of grand arched windows has been its marker in this respect: a building that tells a simple story.
McAslan has understood the value of this. The front of the building will be cleared of its detracting modern concourse, and when the hoardings are removed we will have a clear view of Cubitt’s set piece once again. Which would be enough, but the works go further than this. The new western concourse has been tucked behind the Great Northern Hotel. It is a bold new public space canopied with a geometrically ornamented structure that is likely to make the functional modernist wince. King’s Cross has been given back its architectural heart, but like Cinderella, it has been allowed to sneak out the side door in a splendid new gown and join St Pancras at the ball.