Thursday, April 07, 2016

Railway stations and cathedrals

click photo to enlarge
The invention of the railways in the nineteenth necessitated the design of a new kind of building - the railway station. In large cities these needed to be large buildings to accommodate the multiple lines, platforms, offices, buffets, waiting rooms etc that were required to cater for the thousands of people who would pass through daily. Moreover, the stations had to protect the users from the weather whilst at the same time allowing sufficient space for the smoke from steam-powered engines to dissipate without inconveniencing people.

Large, glazed train sheds came into being in response to these demands and immediately created a problem for the engineers and architects: what form should the building take that fronts these sheds? Usually a stone or brick facade in one of the established historical styles was erected that contained a main entrance and the necessary offices with, often, a hotel. In London the terminus for the Midland Railway, St Pancras (opened 1868), typifies on the largest scale, this approach. However, the nearby King's Cross railway station (opened 1852) took a radically different approach. Here, George Turnbull and Lewis Cubitt came up with a more utilitarian design in stock brick that won many admirers for its bold simplicity. The large main arches that front the two arched roofs of the Arrival and Departure Halls echo how the big arches of medieval cathedral facades signify the nave and flanking aisles within. The symmetry of the station facade with its central clock tower is still a thrilling sight, and one I enjoy each time I go into and out of London by train.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: King's Cross Railway Station, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm (34mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On