Creating the new London Bridge Station was like performing open heart surgery on a patient - while they were jogging.
So said Mark Middleton, partner of Grimshaw as he showed an audience the key points and challenges of the design, which won the overall prize at this year at the NLA Awards.
The primary purpose was to add additional capacity, said Middleton at a special breakfast talk on the winning scheme at the NLA. The scheme was about changing the station from nine terminus and six through platforms to six terminus and nine through platforms, a journey for the project that was like going from the ‘wilderness to world class’. But unlike, say St Pancras, this was not a building with ‘good bones’ and few stations have had as complicated an evolution, with complex layers of history and additions, some of them unsympathetic to the Victorian heritage.
The station is the oldest in the capital, opening first in 1836, but had not been updated since the 1970s – the redevelopment will allow some 40-60,000 more peak time passengers. It has also created some 92, 000 sqft of retail and more than 70 retail units, the most ever in a Network Rail Station. Grimshaw’s ‘bold strategy’ also included unpicking the severance that the station had caused, linking two communities at the same time.
Network Rail’s aim, said its managing director David Biggs was to create infrastructure for urban regeneration, integrating with the urban realm of the area and optimising revenues for reinvestment in the railway. It would aim to do so in part by ‘bringing the outside in’ so that the station reflects and is part of the local community, as well as a hub in which people can meet, socialise and travel. It is hoped that the station will also act as a catalyst for wider regeneration and investment in the local area. What it didn’t quite succeed in doing, however, was take the opportunity to build over the station.
The next stage, said Nadia Broccardo, CEO of Team London Bridge, is to enjoy the station. ‘A place to go to, not through’.