On Sunday 29th November, the new ticket hall for the Northern line platforms at Kings Cross will open to the public.
The £800 million hall, the third at King's Cross Undeground, provides a new entrance to the station, improved links between the different lines, and a quick and easy sub-surface route to St Pancras. A few stats gleaned from TfL's garrulous press release: ten new escalators, six new lifts (though we'll have to wait 'til 2010 for step-free access to the Northern line), 300m of tunnels snaking through to the deep-level platforms. Seeing a station without the flow of foot traffic coursing through it is a privileged and unrepresentative experience, of course, but this is a roomy (2000sq m), elegant, and well-laid out space, and should ease the pedestrian logjams around Kings Cross and St Pancras that have been a problem since Eurostar rolled up in 2007.
The platform concourse also boasts the first piece of permanent artwork installed on the Underground network since Eduardo Paolozzi's murals at Tottenham Court Road were introduced in 1984. Will Full Circle, by Knut Henrik Henriksen, prove as popular?
Actually, the question should be: will anybody even notice it? Subtle doesn't even begin to describe this. Sitting at the far wall of the concourse, Henriksen's piece takes the "lost" segment of the circle that the gravitational need for a flat floor obviates, and places it at an oblique angle between floor and ceiling. An impressively loquacious pamphlet describes how Full Circle "proposes a reconsideration of the site" (how can you reconsider a site that's yet to open?), and claims the "conceptually exhumed" piece of the circle is poised in a position "informed by the physical and architectural constraints of the site", in such a way as to be "incognito". Well, the last word is certainly apt: how many of the 300,000 harried and hurrying commuters that bustle through the station every day will even notice the art?
The ticket hall opens to the public on Sunday, 29th November.