Steampunk, Victoriana & Industry at St. Pancras: 3 Snapshots of Industrial Design from London
You don't have to look very far or very wide in London to be blown away by the Steampunkery nestled amongst the modern shop fronts. Although the city enjoyed major growth phases in the Georgian and Edwardian eras, squarely sandwiched between the two was a sizeable Victorian growth spurt. With it came the dramatic Botanical Victoriana that is Kew Gardens, the smart stone monolithic facade of the V & A Museum and the warm round red-bricked architecture of the Royal Albert Hall....plus countless less well known pieces of architecture and artifacts still enjoyed by Londoners, hipsters and eagle-eyed tourists alike.
St Pancras station is deservedly famous for its fabulous Victorian gothic facade (strictly speaking this was originally "Midland Grand Hotel", rather than the station per se, to which it is attached. Following extensive rennovation, it is now known as the "St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel" ). When I first lived in London, in the mid to late 1990s, the station was part of my bedroom window's view. From the street it was magnificent. Inside was a different story- a grimy, half-abandonned train terminus with departures to Sheffield and Nottingham and, as far as I could see, pretty much nowhere else. But the tides of fortune have now changed once again and the extension of the Eurostar train line to St Pancras has brought with it prosperity and a desperately needed sprucing up of both St Pancras and the adjacent King's Cross station. Today, the first thing international disembarking passengers notice is the enormous bronze statue of a couple embracing at the far end of the platform. Called "The Meeting Place" I think the statue itself has its own appeal, whatever the art critics say. For me, though, the finest part is the complex, perspective-twisting freize around its base.
An intricate bronze relief artwork (above and below), it has trains, industry, brooding skies and forboding skyscrapers.
There is heavy industry, construction, steel-hauling workmen from another era, crowds and, for me, sizeable overtones of a deliciously dark industrial world: "Modern Times" eat your heart out.
Elsewhere soldiers come and go by train to war. As "industrial chic" goes, it is glorious: skilful, powerful, thoughtful and entirely fitting for its environment. Sculptor Paul Day has really created something amazing and in the revamped St Pancras it has a wonderful (giant, rivetted, industrial, bustling) home.
-V. Neblik for TheGreatestMinds.co.uk