LONDON (UK) - No longer do Eurostar passengers in London have to wait on a draughty train platform. When the service moved from Waterloo Station to the new terminal at St. Pancras the facilities were upgraded accordingly and now business travellers, for example, wait to board their trains in surroundings more akin to a first class airport lounge.
Designed by Arup Associates and Land Design Studio, the Business Premier Lounge, the main travellers' departure lounge, ticket offices and arrivals hall cover 7000 m2 directly below the platforms in an area that was once used to store barrels of beer delivered from the Midlands. Arup Associates took on the site following base build work by Rail Link Engineering, who had rebuilt the platforms and refurbished the original fabric of the station's undercroft as far as possible, including the cast iron columns that support the historic train shed.
The fit-out of the lounges is utterly contemporary and includes a grand spiral staircase, leather-clad armchairs and slender, pleated table lamps. However, the ambience that it evokes is that of luxury train travel in the early 20th century. The architect has accomplished this by utilizing the linear 'train carriage' aspect of the space and ensuring high quality materials were used – from the oiled hardwood floor, which runs throughout all areas – to the large armchairs, table lamps and chandeliers. Lacquer and etched glass wall panelling incorporates train departure information and contrasts well with the original stone and redbrick fabric of the station.
Arup Associates was commissioned by Eurostar in 2004. The practice's initial work included a passenger traffic flow analysis for the project. The detailed design was undertaken in partnership with Land Design Studio, whose objective was to bring a sense of experience to the various environments, born out of the differing needs of the Eurostar travellers. The lounge creates a new benchmark for quality and service for the sector: the effect is a very up-to-date step back in time to the great days of international rail travel. (Will Jones)