Sunday, November 4, 2012

Coming or Going? - St. Pancras Station, London

Do you love a train station?  I still do.  The anticipation of departure, the joyous expectation of an imminent arrival - whether yours, or that of another.  I used to feel this way about airports but let's face it.....when it comes to that experience these days, THE THRILL IS GONE. 

You know what I'm talking about.

In days well past, Mr. Paradis and I had friends who lived in squats in a place called Stanley Buildings right behind St. Pancras station.  On the day that I took these pictures, the very last of them was in the process of coming down. From Stanley buildings you could see into St. Pancras from the back and I have loved this station since those days.  Its soaring roofline like a giant glass house.  The journey out of St. Pancras to the North has always been very moving to me.  As all train travel is, it's a metaphor of life somehow, of all of one's life, passing before our very eyes, a parade of earthly possibilities flashing by, rushed and compressed into a couple hours' journey.

Now the Eurostar leaves from here, adding another layer of charm, sheen and enticement to the railway station environs. 

Here is a man we can thank that St. Pancras endures and thrives:  Sir John Betjeman, a beloved Englishman of letters and founder of the Victorian Society.  He and his society lobbied strenuously and passionately for the preservation of treasures of the Victorian age.  One of which was St. Pancras Station.  It took a long while for him to prevail - i.e., well into the 21st century. But now, a tribute to him stands in the station.  It's a lovely sculpture, one amongst others in London, that I am quite in love with.

From Wikipedia, here:

Betjeman responded to architecture as the visible manifestation of society's spiritual life as well as its political and economic structure. He attacked speculators and bureaucrats for what he saw as their rapacity and lack of imagination. In the preface of his collection of architectural essays, First and Last Loves says: "We accept the collapse of the fabrics of our old churches, the thieving of lead and objects from them, the commandeering and butchery of our scenery by the services, the despoiling of landscaped parks and the abandonment to a fate worse than the workhouse of our country houses, because we are convinced we must save money."

I could not agree with him more and this sentiment applies equally, if not more, to the American architectural and cultural landscape.  And to our life and times.

We don't realize what we're losing when, throughout the world, we allow our visual history to be obliterated in the name of "urban" and increasingly, "suburban renewal".  

By sculptor Paul Day, this monumental piece nine meters high, called "The Meeting Place" (more pictures here of the lower frieze) towers over the front end of St. Pancras station.  It has a nice "It's Grim Up North",  pulp-fiction, kitchen sink realism vibe to it.

Reminding us that it's good to go......and then again..........

meeting up back in "the Smoke" could just be the beginning of a whole other adventure.

Did you go anywhere good this weekend?  I did.  But I'm not telling where yet.

1 comment:

  1. all of this in st pancras? and your next post on the station as well? wow.
    i agree on arriving and leaving railway stations. i remember victoria all too well, and i must say i take a shine to st pancras too.
    not long now, i'm getting excited...