Forget about the detail, let's celebrate the bigger picture
The prospect of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link running through to St Pancras is a really exciting one, as is the redevelopment of King's Cross that will accompany it. Of course, we have known it was coming for some time but, as Michael Hammond's article on page 78 highlights, it is now taking shape rapidly for completion in 2006 and the first train arriving in 2007. There will be a dramatic new train shed, a sensitive reworking of the existing St Pancras station, and a new public square that should help kick-start the regeneration of an area that, despite being so near the centre of London, is woefully rundown.
This will be another feather in Foster and Partners'cap, if there is still room for one. Or will it? The initial masterplan and design strategy were Foster's, but then the whole concept was taken on by Rail Link Engineering, a consortium of the engineering shareholders of the client, London and Continental Railways. Doubtless, the absence of the maestro's guiding hand will be evident in several aspects of the detailing. So should we all prepare to feel affronted? Well, no. This is a fantastically complex project, which the client has chosen to tackle in a particular way. Architecturally its solution may not be ideal, but passengers and passers-by will still benefit from Foster's thinking.
Big projects always involve some compromises. This has been a great week for architecture in London, with Piano's tower getting the go-ahead, and Foreign Office Architects winning the competition for the BBC music centre. The BBC building hit problems at the competition stage, and both projects will probably encounter some difficulties before they reach completion. Most architects know that it is only on the smallest projects that they have even a chance of keeping complete control, and seeing every aspect turn out in the way they want. With bigger projects, they usually have to settle for the broader picture. At St Pancras it may be slightly broader than usual, but Foster is scarcely short of future memorials. With so much that is so good happening in London, this is a time for celebration. Now all we need to do is sort out the design of our hospitals