Paddington Station - Nicholas Grimshaw - AD 2000
Brunel's three great glass-roofed sheds, with their enormous curved ribs, fretted with decorative lightning holes, are the glory of Paddington Station. Over the years the station had become cluttered with kiosks, departure boards and ill considered junk, obscuring the basic structure and nobility of the station. By moving arrival and departure signs to the side and creating new low-profile kiosks, it has become easier to see the station as a massive whole. The sheds have been enhanced by re-lighting and a bright new limestone floor. Brunel's wrought iron tracery, on the ends of the vaults, cut about and damaged by earlier alterations, has been carefully restored. An extraordinary example of almost Art Deco (of the 1850s instead of the 1920s) made visible again.
The station is still a place of movement, noise and bustle, not much removed in spirit from Frith's painting of the station in the mid-nineteenth century, with its piled luggage, holiday makers, an escaping debtor being arrested, and a hundred other personal dramas. Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners have now created an area of calm at the end of the platforms, which contrasts with all this restlessness. A large glass box erected over the old Lawn area offers a peaceful space in which travellers can relax, eat, wait, or book ahead for far flung destinations by using the Heathrow Express airline check-in facility,
The new glass box, observing Brunel's huge vaults but separated from them, is built on three floors linked with free-standing, sculptural staircases. Construction is in steel tubes, cast stainless steel joints and thick, high performance glass. A honeycomb of straight steel tubes is linked by accurately cast steel joints. These cast joints were very carefully modelled and then, because they could be reproduced in large numbers, produced quite cheaply. The new roof shape refers to the Paxton ridge and furrow roof of the Crystal Palace which inspired Brunel a century and a half ago.1 This is the architectural description, yet the Lawn building is far more than that.
The new glass box, observing Brunel's huge vaults but separated from them, is built on three floors linked with free-standing, sculptural staircases. Construction is in steel tubes, cast stainless steel joints and thick, high performance glass. A honeycomb of straight steel tubes is linked by accurately cast steel joints. These cast joints were very carefully modeled and then, because they could be made in large numbers, produced quite cheaply.
To walk slowly through it is to travel through a meticulously finished sculpture, each piece precisely cast, machined and fitted. Staircases and floor levels become viewing platforms through to Brunel's three immense vaults next door. Nothing is hidden and no view is quite like the last. At the same time there is a sensuous desire to touch the individual parts, so carefully made, so perfectly finished. Everywhere one looks one can see the thought, mathematics and pure intelligence that have gone into the work. It has the intellectual excitement of a good Euclidian proof and the sensuous experience of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture.