TATE MODERN EXTENSION, BANKSIDE, LONDON
Architect: Herzog & de Meuron
Tate Modern, a conversion of the former Bankside Power Station into a modern art gallery, was opened by the Queen on 11 May 2000 and in its short 21st-century existence has become one of the most visited art galleries in the world. Within just four years of its opening, visitor numbers had already reached double the planned capacity and its international profile and visitor growth have expanded ever since.
The initial conversion of Tate Modern involved the retention of the enormous central Turbine Hall as a signature reception and occasional art display space, with the new galleries housed in the adapted volumes of the northern riverside wing – the Boiler House – with its iconic chimney. A second phase had always been envisaged, the obvious location for this being the southern section of the building known as the Switch House, it being the location of the power station’s electrical transformers, which at the time were still operational.
The increasing popularity and resulting congestion in its galleries made the expansion of Tate Modern inevitable and in 2005 an international competition was launched to find an architect for the second phase extension. In the event this was won by the same firm of architects as had designed the original conversion, Herzog & de Meuron, which came up with a radical proposal for a new tower structure sited alongside and emerging from the original structure of the Switch House. The first proposals, which obtained planning permission in 2007, were for a complex, highly glazed and reflective design, its twisting ziggurat shape and projecting gallery boxes roughly similar in form but hugely different in style to what has now been built. The scheme was subsequently revised and two years later the more sober brick-clad design emerged, the twisting pyramidal form now simplified into a series of angled planes.
As now completed, the new extension in fact occupies just the western half of the Switch House; the eastern half still functions as a transformer station, supplying power to the local area and the City. In addition the new structure has incorporated the space beyond it previously taken up by three enormous circular underground concrete oil tanks. The raking columns of the new tower rise up through the tank room volumes and are integrated with the Switch House structure at the upper floor levels, where the principal new galleries are located.
The extension can be approached from a number of different directions. At the lowest level, the foot of the broad sloping ramp in the Turbine Hall opens into the basement level of the Switch House. Beyond the initial lobby area, a ramp leads down past the foot of a wide spiral concrete staircase and thence into the subterranean world of the tank rooms, three huge concrete drums, two of which (the East Tank and South Tank) have been adapted as galleries for performance art, video pieces, various live ‘happenings’ and installations.
At the main ground level a broad terrace, its boundary delineated by low walls corresponding with the circular profiles of the tank rooms below, gives access to two entrances: one into the base of the tower extension, the other into the centre of the Switch House wing, where it links directly with the bridge platform spanning the central bays of the Turbine Hall. This route also connects directly with the central entry point on the riverside and thus creates a welcome element of connectivity north to south across the site. A further new bridge link has been introduced high up in the Turbine Hall, linking the existing galleries with the new spaces at level 4 and providing vertiginous views of the cavernous central hall.
The tower extension rises through ten levels overall, with new display galleries at basement and levels 2, 3 and 4 sandwiching the entry level, with its shop and bar/café. Above that another four levels provide space for staff offices and a restaurant, a large members’ room and an educational facility. Levels 9 and 10 house a public restaurant and, a popular destination for many, a public viewing terrace providing spectacular views in all directions over London.
The main pedestrian route up through the building explores every corner of the twisting volume of the ziggurat, requiring a substantial horizontal transition from one corner to another at level 1 (entry level) and again at level 2, the first main gallery level, before finding a more stable and central location over one of the lift cores, where the lifts terminate at level 4 and where the shrinking floor plate of the tower emerges above the roofline of Giles Gilbert Scott’s original building. Throughout the vertical perambulation one is constantly aware of the internally expressed structural concrete framework, principally of pre-fabricated units, supporting the angled planes of the elevations and the robust, indeed rather brutal, exposed concrete finishes that characterise the interior.
This is neither a comfortable nor particularly welcoming interior, though it is undoubtedly intriguing from a spatial point of view, enlivened by the occasional opening up of views from floor to floor, whether obtained from various half landings or generated by withdrawing the floor plate back from the exterior to create angled open slots against the sloping exterior walls. It unarguably maintains a robust industrial aesthetic that links it inextricably with the power and scale of the retained original structure. The new gallery spaces back up against the south wall of the Turbine Hall on three levels and are large, lofty and rather anonymous white-walled spaces. They are designed to provide a flexible and neutral context for the intended artistic focus of the new wing towards film, video, performance and installation formats, in accordance with the Tate’s avowed programme of expanding the range and repertoire of its modern art collection.
The most distinctive and innovative feature of the new extension is surely its unusual external cladding, a perforated brick rain-screen supported off the sloping concrete framework by thousands of stainless steel brackets and corbels. The basic element is a combined pre-bonded double-brick unit, with each unit being dowelled to its neighbouring units in a ‘hit and miss’ arrangement to create an open lattice. At seemingly random locations, open slots are cut into the sloping surfaces to reveal bands of clear glazed windows, the openings highlighted by the incorporation of a white concrete profiled lintel supporting the brickwork above. These allow daylight into circulation and other support spaces in the interior as well as allowing views out. In other locations the brickwork is allowed to pass in front of the glazed sections of the intermediate panellised weather-resistant cladding system, so that daylight percolates through the lattice to the interior, with the brickwork pattern seen in silhouette.
Laying such a lattice of bricks against a sloping plane introduces all manner of technical issues for support and restraint and required a high degree of precision in the structural engineering. The external corners and internal creases in the cladding are kept free of internal columns to reinforce the concept of visual continuity of the cladding around the building. On close inspection the external corners provide some evidence of the complexity generated by the nature of the lattice and the varying angles of the twisting ziggurat form and the consequent difficulty of coordinating the change in direction in the latticed brickwork. The architect has described the cladding as having the quality of knitwear, an apt metaphor for the loose weave texture of the brickwork, but the seams on a knitted jumper usually display rather tighter control at the junctions than has been possible here, where the exposed corners have an unstitched appearance. That said, the brickwork is of a wonderfully sympathetic and consistent colour, the earthy mid-brown tone blending almost seamlessly with the great blank walls of the original power station to ensure that original and new combine together in an overall unifying composition.
Completion of the extension was delayed during its procurement, the original intention of opening for the London Olympics having to be deferred for as much as four years. In the intervening period costs have risen to a daunting £260m but on 17 June 2016 the new building was finally opened to the public to much fanfare and a substantial 23,600m2 of additional gallery space received its first visitors. Tate Modern looks set to continue its leading role in the presentation of modern art, in all its varied, and at times mystifying, forms, for many years to come.
ENTERPRISE CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA, NORWICH
The University of East Anglia’s Enterprise Centre, opened in the summer of 2015, is located in the Norwich Research Park and is intended to provide a facility for the encouragement of cooperation between new businesses and academia, with a brief to promote entrepreneurship, innovation and new ways of working in the low-carbon economy. The new building has been designed as an exemplar for sustainable design and has achieved both a Passivhaus standard and a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating, its construction being such that it has an almost zero embodied energy rating.
The accommodation, spread over two floor levels, includes a 300-seat lecture theatre, lecture and seminar rooms, laboratory, boardroom and work spaces and facilities for start-up businesses and small- and medium-sized enterprises – the terms ‘hatcheries’ and ‘incubator units’ feature in descriptions of the building and give a clear idea as to the centre’s aims and objectives. The building is rectangular in layout with a central courtyard, into which the substantial bulk of the lecture theatre projects, with the opposing long side of the rectangle left open under a roof-level canopy supported on tall, circular timber columns.
The resulting ground-floor profile therefore resembles an ‘E’, with the lecture theatre filling the central leg and the remainder occupying the surrounding wings. The lecture theatre connects at ground-floor level with the centre of a long and spacious concourse/exhibition space, at each end of which a staircase rises to the first floor and provides direct access to a wide corridor connecting the two main south and north wings of accommodation. At the south end, a series of lecture and seminar rooms line a central corridor under a tall pitched rooflight, while in the other main wing a large open-plan ‘hatchery’ space for start-up businesses takes up most of the floor. The central north–south connecting corridor gives direct access to three separate rooms: a laboratory, a social space and a boardroom. These are each separated from the other by a void and provided with internal windows so that views down into the exhibition area below are afforded from the rooms and also from the intervening openings along the corridor.
If the internal planning can be said to be conventional in its approach, the same can certainly not be said about the form of construction and the various environmental measures that have been implemented in the drive for energy efficiency. Taking advantage of the planet’s arguably most sustainable and renewable construction material, the building makes widespread use of timber and wood-related products. The superstructure utilises glulam timber framing and internal partitions use timber stud framing (70 per cent locally sourced with the remainder from Ireland), with birch ply lining panels taking the place of plasterboard for certain wall linings. Woodwool boarding, used as ceiling tiles, provides good acoustic performance and low embodied energy; elsewhere, as in the first-floor corridor ceilings, a spray-on cellulose acoustic finish made from 85 per cent recycled paper is used.
The primary glazed façade features a natural anodised aluminium triple-glazed timber composite window system, with a substantial projecting-eaves canopy for solar shading at roof level, lined with an external-grade MDF board, and timber sunscreen louvres at first-floor level on south- and west-facing elevations. The internal courtyard elevations include the use of recycled stained timber boards in panels set at intervals in the cladding system (reclaimed from original iroko laboratory desks in the university’s chemistry building), but the most radical use of materials surely concerns the rain-screen cladding of the external elevations, where that classic vernacular roofing material, thatch, has been used.
The use of thatch for roofing is a centuries-old tradition in many parts, and notably so in East Anglia, where Norfolk reed has long been the material of choice. Here, prefabricated, vertically hung straw thatch panels used as a rain screen constitutes a totally new use of the material and not surprisingly imparts a unique character to the external elevations. Modular cassette panels constructed from spruce plywood were supplied to a number of local Norfolk thatchers, who were then able to apply the straw thatch under cover in their workshops over winter under the general guidance of master thatcher Stephen Letch. Several technical issues critical to achieving the seamless appearance of the finished assembly had to be successfully resolved. The use of vertical cassettes is predicted to substantially increase the normally limited effective lifespan of thatch, and while eventual renewal will no doubt be required during the building’s anticipated life cycle, the use of removable modular cassettes should make this process much simpler than re-thatching in situ.
Unseen by most, thatch also makes an appearance as the roof covering to the pitched rooflights over the central corridors of the first floor, although in this case the material used is a local reed, sourced from Woodbastwick and Saxmundham, a more robust and dense material. This is assembled into tightly packed and rough textured boards, and used as a wall-lining panel around the first floor social ‘pod’, the central of the three rooms overlooking the ground floor exhibition space, thus bringing some of the natural textures of the exterior to the inside.
As a home for start-up enterprises exploring the future of bio-technologies, finding their feet in the low-carbon industry and generating viable products from natural, local low-carbon materials, the new building is an almost perfect response, providing a light, modern and innovative solution and what must rank as one of the country’s greenest and most energy-efficient commercial buildings. Displaying a finely controlled synthesis of the modern and the vernacular, the closely detailed and the comfortably rugged, the designers have produced a delightful and enjoyable building with more than a hint as to how a sustainable future in construction might be approached. This has been recognised in sustainability circles with the building winning a 2016 BREEAM Award in the education and healthcare category.
THE PORTLAND COLLECTION AT HARLEY GALLERY, WELBECK, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
Architect: Hugh Broughton Architects
This small but beautifully crafted new gallery is the latest addition to the varied collection of buildings that make up the Welbeck Estate, a substantial historic country estate in north Nottinghamshire. It has been designed to house some of the very best examples of the fine collection of artwork, furniture and books that has been built up over generations by the Cavendish-Bentinck family of Welbeck Abbey. The estate was already home to an existing art gallery, the Harley Gallery, converted from a former gas works building in 1994 and focused on contemporary art. This forms part of the Welbeck Village, a collection of buildings including a farm shop, workshops, café and garden centre. Following the successful completion of the Harley Gallery, the family decided to build a second gallery, focusing on the historical side of the collection, and to this end initiated a limited architectural competition for the design, which was won by Hugh Broughton.
The new gallery is located close to the Harley Gallery but remains separate; it has been cleverly integrated with the existing high stone walls that are the main surviving parts from an area known as the Tan Gallop. Built by the 5th Duke of Portland in the 19th century, this was formerly a huge indoor training ground for horses, enclosed within tall stone walls and covered with an iron and glass roof, which was subsequently removed, leaving a large walled enclosure.
The new gallery has been neatly inserted into the space within the ashlar stone walls of the Gallop, with just a narrow slot between new and old to allow for maintenance. The brick walls of the new structure emerge above the coping line and capped piers of the old walls and the simple brick box is capped with two lines of substantial curved metal-clad roof lights. Tucked up against the outside of the stone walls in the corner of a spacious pedestrian courtyard that links with the Harley Gallery and other surrounding structures, the entrance pavilion presents itself as a cool Miesian structure, with a full-height glass entry screen sheltered under a cantilevered steel-framed canopy and bolstered by brick side and rear walls in the same precise brickwork as the main gallery structure. The flank walls of the entrance, together with the external walls of the gallery block, are clad with a soft grey-buff handmade Danish brick, a subtle and sympathetic counterpoint to the warm weathered tones of the old limestone blocks of the Gallop.
The glazed entrance leads naturally into a large, light and airy foyer, at the far end of which is placed a long reception desk set in front of three full-height windows providing views to the countryside beyond, and it is immediately apparent that the old stone walls run through from outside to inside, separating the two components of entrance and gallery. The integrity of the Gallop enclosure is preserved and enhanced by its visual separation from the entrance pavilion structure by means of a wide continuous horizontal glazed slot introduced at roof level, which allows the top of the wall to be visible and lets light flood down the face of the stonework.
To the right of the reception desk, an existing gateway in the stone wall opens up a view into the first gallery space, the Long Gallery. As the name suggests, this is a long (22m) narrow room whose walls curve inwards at high level as if to generate a closed barrel vault but then rise vertically, creating a full-length narrow slot capped by a glazed rooflight that admits indirect daylight. This is a simple but impressive space that provides a dignified setting for the old master paintings, whose strong colours stand out against a pale grey plaster background. The axial vista is closed by a jewel-like glass-fronted display cabinet housing silverware, recessed into the wall on the opposite side of a corridor that links into the second and larger of the two principal gallery spaces, the Treasure Gallery.
Two openings in the Long Gallery also enter into this space, which is subdivided into three smaller areas by the insertion at the centre of the outside wall of a ‘Miniatures Octagon’. Apart from providing additional wall space and settings for furniture, the walls of the octagon create a more intimate and enclosed setting for a display of exquisite miniatures and other light-sensitive objects. The sense of enclosure within this central zone is heightened by the introduction of a lower-level ceiling that separates the two outer zones with their high-vaulted externally louvred north-facing rooflights.
The vaulted forms of the gallery rooflights are clearly visible externally, finished in a dark grey raised-seam zinc cladding, and impart a palpable air of strength to the building’s profile and presence as seen from the approach court. Particularly in the case of the Long Gallery, there is a significant difference in curvature between the inner (plaster) and outer (zinc-clad) profiles of the rooflights and the resulting cavity provides an ideal services zone for the mechanical and electrical installations necessary to maintain the gallery’s carefully controlled internal environment. This is a key aspect of modern gallery design, where measures to ensure the conservation of fragile and sensitive items is a standard requirement of curators and custodians. Further air-handling systems are housed in a substantial under-floor void, providing conditioned air supply through skirting-level grilles inserted into the gallery perimeter walls.
The detailing throughout is clean and unobtrusive; much care has clearly been taken in materials selection and workmanship and there is a solid crafted feel to the whole. While the entrance foyer is crisp and bright with its white finishes, the background wall colouring to the galleries has been the subject of special consideration and the range of mid-tone colours that has been utilised, from mid-grey through shades of green and blue to a deep red, provide a more sympathetic counterpoint to the artworks than the commonly encountered ‘white box’. Completed in September 2015 for a construction cost of approximately £4.7m and formally opened to the public on 20 March 2016, this new addition to the Welbeck Estate will greatly enhance the visitor experience of this interesting historic site while providing a high-quality setting for a unique and rich collection of art and artefacts. It well deserves its nomination as a winner of a 2016 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) National Award.
THE FRANCIS CRICK INSTITUTE, SOMERS TOWN, LONDON
Architect: HOK with PLP Architecture
The Francis Crick Institute is a leading biomedical facility and laboratory conducting research into a range of critical illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and neurological conditions; it takes its name from the Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick who, with James Watson, discovered the extraordinary spiral structure of DNA. The institute operates as a consortium comprising six scientific and academic organisations, namely the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK, University College London, Imperial College and King’s College London. Providing accommodation for some 1,500 employees, this new 91,000m2 building will become the largest research facility of its type in Europe, occupying a key central London site immediately behind the British Library and alongside St Pancras railway terminus.
One of the key aims informing the design was a desire to encourage collaboration across the various contributing disciplines and the building was therefore expected to provide an environment where ideas could be shared openly and discussed freely. This has led to a general assumption of openness in the planning of the laboratory floors as opposed to a rigidly cellular layout. The bulk of the accommodation is contained within two long wings running east–west, separated by an atrium with full-height glazed screens at each end. The wings are themselves bisected towards the centre by a secondary atrium orientated north–south, creating four distinct blocks within the whole and a cruciform layout to the atrium voids, focusing on a central crossing where the principal circulation staircase winds its way up through successive landing levels.
The two principal wings differ in height by a single storey: ground plus three storeys to the north, ground plus four to the south. Both wings are then surmounted by huge vaulted roof constructions of aluminium slats on a steel framework rising three storeys above the topmost floor on each side, to provide space for the extensive plant installations that are required to service the laboratory floors below. The open arrangement of the slats permits the necessary flow of fresh air into the plant plenums for air handling and cooling purposes. The plant room roofs take the form of curved shells that overlap along their entire length over the central atrium and cantilever out at each end where the glazed end walls to the atrium signal both public and staff entrances. The curved and higher south-facing roof shell incorporates an extensive array of photovoltaic panels.
The long side elevations of the laboratory blocks are faced with curtain walling constructed from storey-height triple-glazed thermally broken aluminium-framed units, each one divided into five equal panels. These glazed façades enclose long perimeter corridors that link the various laboratory and collaboration spaces occupying the central internal sections of each block, allowing daylight deep into the interiors. The four-part floor plan has been given an unexpected twist by the angling of the south-east quarter outwards from the central axis, a gesture that adds a measure of dynamism to the plan while generating extra width and presence for the main public entrance on the Midland Road frontage opposite St Pancras.
Where the four blocks emerge onto the street frontages at the east and west ends, the cladding changes to a solid masonry appearance with a closely spaced grid of columns faced with mortar-pointed terracotta panels, whose warm pinkish-buff colour gets slightly paler as the building rises. A similar treatment is utilised at the mid-points of the side elevations, where the transverse atrium emerges as a full-height glazed wall between the service core elements at the end of each quarter block and is bookended by short lengths of terracotta panelled walls.
Internally the predominant feature is the long and tall atrium, with open balcony walkways on each side completing a circuit of circulation routes around each of the collaborative laboratory spaces that sit within their own central glazed partitioned areas in the middle of each block, providing full visibility from one side of the building to the other. At ground level, the main feature is a roughly circular ‘blob’ containing an auditorium, placed near the east entrance for easy public access for lectures and presentations and linked to an adjacent exhibition area. The remainder of the ground floor is taken up with a range of support facilities, including a sizeable restaurant, a break-out area and a bank of seminar rooms. There are further below-ground floors in a deep basement, accommodating further laboratories and back-up operations.
The Institute’s new home was completed in late summer 2015 for a reported construction cost in the order of £460m. It is a huge and technically complex building and exerts a significant presence over the surrounding streets. However the exterior is modelled and articulated in a manner that allows its undoubted bulk to sit relatively comfortably in the immediate urban context. Its ultimate success will no doubt be judged on the extent to which the internal planning of the building and the culture that it fosters allows the various disciplines to work together to achieve the medical breakthroughs that are anticipated.
BIRMINGHAM NEW STREET STATION
Concept Architect: AZPML
Interior Architect: Haskoll
Executive Architect: Atkins
Birmingham’s New Street Station was originally built by the Victorians in the grand age of railway development and was graced with an elegant glass and cast-iron train shed typical of the period. This stood until well into the 20th century, but having been badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War the old station roof was later demolished and the site redeveloped in the 1960s. At that time a number of ‘air rights’ developments were carried out, resulting in the station sprouting a rash of overbuilding, including car park structures, office buildings and the Stephenson Tower. Three years later a shopping centre was added, later to be named the Pallasades, and the station platforms were banished to the underground world they have occupied ever since, with escalators linking to a main concourse level above.
The redeveloped station was designed to handle 60,000 passengers a day but by 2010 was having to cope with nearly 170,000 a day. It had been recognised for some time previously that the station was clearly under severe stress and as early as 2000 the first steps had been taken to initiate a serious refurbishment. The much-needed improvement to the architecture and functionality of the station was essential if Birmingham was to present a better first impression to visitors and a more user-friendly and operationally efficient transport hub for regular users.
As a consequence of disagreements between the owners of the Pallasades, the council and Network Rail concerning a planning application in 2006, Birmingham City Council bought out the owners’ interest through compulsory purchase in order to be able to realise the full potential of the site. A scheme was subsequently developed involving the removal of an unsightly car park structure and substantial parts of the shopping mall to enable a huge new atrium space to be created at the heart of the site to act as the focus for the combination of uses and functional operations needing to be accommodated. The Pallasades has gone through a substantial amount of re-planning as a result, improving circulation and bringing the units more in line with current retail standards, and has been rebranded under the new name of Grand Central.
A new main entrance to Southside was proposed early in the scheme’s development, but in 2010 this was changed to make way for a brand new 24,000m² John Lewis store, one of the largest outside London, which now occupies a bulbous new building mass on the south side where previously stood the Stephenson Tower. Carving the central atrium space out of the middle of the shopping mall opened up the station concourse level to the possibility of daylight from above and this potential has been realised to dramatic effect with a new roof structure of curved trusses and generous rooflights. The concept design for both the atrium interior and the external envelope was originated by Foreign Office Architects (FOA), the winners of a RIBA competition promoted by Network Rail in 2007. When, shortly after, FOA disbanded, the design commission was taken on by one of FOA’s partners’ new practice, AZPML.
The early concept designs prepared by AZPML for the atrium proposed a smooth continuous white plaster finish to the structural elements, enclosing the arching forms of the steel roof trusses spanning the atrium with a series of undulating organically inspired surfaces. However, a rigorous technical- and value-engineering exercise aimed at reducing costs met with the disapproval of the architects, who left the project as a result. The scheme was subsequently re-engineered to use a tensile PVC fabric solution and much simplified forms to a design prepared by Haskoll, which was acting as the interior architect for the Grand Central shopping component of the scheme.
The atrium roof glazing is not of glass but instead uses a system of ETFE pillows. (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE, is a fluorine-based plastic.) These pillows follow the curve of the arched ribs spanning the ovoid-shaped rooflights defined by the radiating spans of the roof trusses. The ETFE is lightweight and energy efficient but lacks the clarity of glass and over time will tend to dull. The tensile fabric is prone to distortion and wrinkling and requires regular adjustment of the tension to maintain its clarity of line and surface. Nevertheless the spatial interventions and finished structure have to be regarded as a major improvement over the desperate conditions that prevailed previously. The atrium is elegant, light and airy and, provided the maintenance regime remains up to scratch, will continue to function as a dramatic focal point for passengers and shoppers alike.
The external cladding introduced around what is a complex and undulating perimeter, including the swelling mass of the John Lewis store, also presents something of a surprise. Designed as an over-cladding to the existing envelope, it takes the form of a shiny reflective stainless steel band of varying heights and profiles, wrapping continuously around the building. Punctuated at key entry points by large ‘media eyes’, it offers a constantly shifting reflection of the surrounding urban scene and in some measure reduces, or at least confuses, the perception of the overall bulk of the reorganised station. The prominent and slightly overbearing ‘media eyes’ comprise large LED screens and are used to present promotional material, videos, advertisements and the like.
The new cladding acts as a rain screen, the stainless steel panels supported on an aluminium framed sub-structure fixed back to a steel propping framework that keeps the cladding clear of the main façade line. The shiny metal skirt rises and falls in response to the demands of the building volume behind, its sinuous and reflective forms seeming quite alien in the context of some arguably rather drab surroundings. Costs again played a part in defining the quality of the finished article and the original intention of a high-quality seamless finish has in the end developed as a much more fragmented and technically less refined solution, though it is arguable that the multiple faceted reflections, in breaking down the integrity of the reflected image, have in the end produced a visually more satisfying result.
The railway platforms – the functional heart of the whole development – remain locked in relative subterranean gloom, but the reorganisation of the superstructure has realised dramatic improvements in passenger circulation, ticketing arrangements and access. Each platform is accessible via one of three airport-style departure lounges, with new escalators, stairs and lifts to the platforms. This enables the station to handle an increased capacity of 250,000 passengers a day, rising to 300,000 in the future.
In functional terms then the new station has transformed the passenger experience and presents a hugely improved public face to welcome arrivals to the city. If the build quality falls a little short of what might have been achieved and what might be thought appropriate for a major regional transport hub, it has to be remembered that this enormous project, reportedly costing in the region of £750m, was procured during the dark days of the recession, from 2008 onwards. The complex six-year construction period reached its conclusion in September 2015 thanks to the efforts of the huge design and construction team that brought it to fruition.