Living fairly close to Euston station, and having known it for the last few decades as my gateway to London from my home in the midlands, it’s history fascinates me. The unlovely functionalist 1960s station is practical and large, it serves its function well, but it’s not got the romance, history or stories of other London stations. The Times art columnist said
“It gives the impression of having been scribbled on the back of a soiled paper bag by a thuggish android with a grudge against humanity and a vampiric loathing of sunlight. And the fact that it replaced a much-loved old station, wiping out the Classical portico of the Euston Arch, only compounds its offensiveness.”
Which is why I was fascinated to read that the Doric arch, or what remains of it (or most of it that didn’t end up forming a rockery in the back garden of the guy that demolished it), is being recovered from it’s subsequent resting place, thanks to the London Olympics.
Developing Prescott Lock to enable construction materials to be transported to and from the Olympic site in a more sustainable way than dirty road lorries has meant that the remains of the arch, which since 1962 have been basically blocking a hole in the tidal riverbed, are finally being recovered. More on the story here, here and here.
Although I am a town planner, I don’t have a strong conservationist streak. But the story of Euston, and the threatened near-by St Pancras, make you realise what a sense of pride and sense of place architectural history can give you. After one of the most shocking pieces of architectural vandalism it’s now hoped that the arch can be reconstructed, not in it’s original place (somewhere near Platform 8, apparently) but perhaps in the redevelopment of Euston station (possibly looking like the image below), or elsewhere. Even if you cannot stop progress, meeting the needs of future generations, and the ability to integrate architectural history into developing places, is an important challenge we need to grasp.