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    St Pancras Rises From The Ashes


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    Posts : 42
    Join date : 2010-09-26

    St Pancras Rises From The Ashes

    Post  Mr007 on Fri 25 Feb 2011, 5:54 pm

    St Pancras Rises From The Ashes

    Published on 08-11-2007 by
    Unless you've spent the last few days on Mars you could hardly have missed the triumphant press coverage on the resurrection of St Pancras Station and the Midland Grand Hotel as the rejuvenated jewel in the crown of Britain's railways.

    With the new train station opening today (kind of) it might seem hard to believe now that it and the associated hotel came within an ace of being demolished in the 1960s but this did indeed happen.

    At the end of World War 2, modernism came to the fore. The grandeur of Victorian Gothic Revival was looked down upon as bloated, bourgeoisie and obsolete compared with the white hot technology that modern and brutal architecture offered.

    Across London a spate of landmark structures were demolished including the gothic revival Imperial Institute, part of Albertopolis, and the neo classical arch outside Euston Station.

    The destruction wasn't limited to London with Birmingham's grand library being flattened, the Manchester Assize Court which was bombed by the Luftwaffe was not rebuilt, whilst in Glasgow the Christian Institute also bit the dust.

    Following on from the successful development of Euston Station developers looked enviously at St Pancras and the destruction of the George Gilbert Scott designed Midland Grand Hotel attached to it.

    Although it was a revolutionary building in its day containing many engineering firsts including hydraulic 'ascending chambers', concrete floors, revolving doors and fire proof floor construction, the durability of the construction had made modernisation impossible.

    There was no central building services providing water and the building was built sufficiently strongly for it to make renovation a commercially unfeasible option and as a result the hotel closed in 1937 leaving the building a deserted relic of the past.

    For 30 years it lay empty with developers having secured planning permission for a new housing complex to stand on the site in 1967. Demolition was scheduled for the 12th of November of that year but a public campaign was launched benefiting from the outrage which the demolition of Euston Arch had aroused and the celebrity of John Betjeman who was one of the leading spokesmen of the campaign.

    In the nick of time Harold Wilson's government intervened listing the building as Grade 1 on the the 2nd of November 1967 but despite this government protection it continued to lie vacant.

    The train station fared little better and although still being used had been relegated to a minor role. The triumphant train shed that at completion was the largest single span roof in the world, 74m wide and 30m high not to mention 213m long, found itself coming suffering from a policy of managed decline as emphasis on the railway network went elsewhere and St Pancras suffered from its proximity to both Kings Cross and Euston.

    Modernism gradually faded from fashion and by the eighties Gothic Revival had become more acceptable again but it was only when the decision was made to have Channel Tunnel Rail Link terminating at the station that it became feasible to renovate and rebuild the hotel and train shed.

    The hotel has been developed by the Manhattan Loft Company and includes a penthouse apartment that has been listed on the market for a cool £10 million. In addition to the residential aspect will be a luxury boutique hotel taking advantage of the Victoriana around it. The restored Midland Grand, now known as, St Pancras Chambers opens in 2009.

    The station meanwhile although having officially been opened on Monday by the Queen will actually open properly next week. Sight seeers will be disappointed as the finishing touches are still being made to it most visibly with signs fitted and other similar minor works.

    St Pancras Station and the Midland Grand Hotel both have an important lesson for today's generation and indeed those to come - we may damn a building as obsolete and unfashionable but over time our perspective on the aesthetics will change and we can recycle the structure to give it modern uses, no matter how much of a tall order it at first seems.

    Many leading pieces of Modernist and Brutalist architecture today face being demolished too, damned by the same dogma that saw the the loss of gems like the Euston Arch. Unless it is structurally unsafe no building is truly useless and with sustainability rising up the agenda, now more than ever, we should be looking at reusing and adapting, not destroying the past.
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