Sam Sherwood-Hale spoke to Colin Bennie, Associate Director at John McAslan + Partners about their work on Bond Street Station and the secret to a successful collaboration…

JMP is partnering with WSP to deliver Bond Street Station, a key hub in Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line. Tell us a little about the design and your collaboration with Crossrail Ltd.

Bond Street is one of London’s mysteries – there is no street of that exact name. Bond Street is really a neighbourhood subdivision of Mayfair. The new station slots into a dense urban grain, just south of Oxford Street

Its western entrance – connecting below ground to the Central and Jubilee Lines at the upgraded tube station is on Davies Street. The eastern entrance is in the stately Hanover Sq. close to Oxford Circus. A different, calmer world.

John McAslan + Partners (JMP) has taken a modern classical approach, giving both of the entrance buildings broad portals flanked by colonnades – red sandstone and bronze to reflect materials used on Davies Street and pale portland stone for Hanover Square. The beams of the coffered ceilings link the lines of columns.

The buildings above the station entrances – which as with all ‘oversite developments’ contribute to the cost of the line and will invisibly contain air vent shafts – will pick up on the restrained, post-and-beam aesthetic and are arranged to reinforce the language of the entrance. Not only does the Hanover Square development create eight floors of residential, office and retail space, but it adds to Crossrail’s forecourt improvements with a new public courtyard and enhancements to the square.

Everything is kept well-proportioned and elegant. Both buildings feature tall bronze hinged grille doors between their columns which can fold shut to close the station off for the few hours it is not running. Inside the ticket halls, you will find other choice details such as fluted columns. The bronze re-emerges as cladding for kiosks. Plus, it’s used in sculptural relief form on the ceiling of the escalator box leading down to the intermediate western concourse which connects to the tube station. From there you descend into the more familiar realm of the line-wide platform components, including the smooth pale concourse linings with gently curved corners

JMP has collaborated with WSP, Arup, Network Rail and HS2 Ltd amongst others. What is the secret to a successful collaboration?

There are three key elements to a successful collaboration, mainly timely responsiveness to requests, clarity of communication and the quality and experience of the team and resource aligned with the wider team. We have developed key lessons learned to help refine a successful collaboration which are:

It is critical to clarify scope and desired outcomes before commencing tasks, where ambiguity exists this is a risk to successful delivery. Senior management are required to review proposals and provide comments so that all are clear in the scope and methodology.

Allocate an appropriate level of resource dependent on the scale of the project.

We actively progress decision making through objective and qualitative scoring with all parties involved to arrive at a suitable outcome.

Changes and requests outside the scope of work need to be quickly agreed and instructed which requires clear communication.

As our offer is varied and experience extensive within John McAslan + Partners, the right resource at the right time is important to implement.

We use a satisfaction survey to gauge perceptions and strengthen future relationships post completion.

How do you build a sense of place at a railway station?

Enjoyable public spaces and efficient, accessible transport solutions are fundamental to civilised living in cities in the 21st Century. A marriage of new public spaces and investment in transport is seen at Bond Street station on London’s Elizabeth Line, where integration with the existing dense urban grain and new landscaping are key ingredients to the project. JMP’s transport projects have extended beyond London, with metro stations in India and Australia being delivered.

In Sydney, the practice is working on a reconstruction of the city’s Central Station to integrate a new Metro station as part of Australia’s most ambitious transport project, into the existing terminal building currently used by 250,000 travellers daily. The project is set to act as a benchmark for urban renewal, much as King’s Cross has done for London’s Olympic year. Our current work in Belfast is focussed around an integrated and connection hub, developed on former railway land and replacing an existing station which is operating beyond capacity, the project is located on former railway land and not only delivers for current growth but allows for future increases and flexibility in modal shift. This new facility will be at the centre of a new urban quarter, Weaver’s Cross, part of the ongoing renaissance of the city.

You’ve won multiple awards for your work on King’s Cross Station, what made that project so successful?

JMP’s comprehensive reconstruction, restoration and extension of London’s Grade 1 listed King’s Cross station, completed in 2012 provided both exceptional new public spaces and the efficient transport core offer. The dramatic new concourse replaced a mean 1970s structure and contains high quality retail and food and beverage around a day-lit public space and under a sweeping glazed roof. The station is fronted by a new public square and with the cleaned, re-glazed and re-equipped train shed, the station complex has emerged as an inspirational gateway to the North and Scotland from London.

What challenges come from bringing new form and function to older buildings?

JMP has established a well-earned reputation for securing the future of historic buildings and places through thoughtful and informed adaptive re-use. However, the challenges of renovating and adaption around the live rail and operational areas poses particular challenges whjch require meticulous planning and innovative, modular and just in time approaches which are increasingly relevant to the construction sector as a whole. The transformation of London’s King’s Cross Station into a 21st Century terminus stands as an exemplar for regeneration and wider benefits in renewing what was a superbly rational trainshed into a hub and destination fit for the future.

Which railway stations from the past do you look to for inspiration when designing new builds?

Many early railway termini stand as examples of superbly rational and flexible design, the diagram being just as relevant today as it was when conceived. The work of Isambard Kingdon Brunel, Willian Barlow, Lewis Cubitt and internationally Daniel Burnham immediately spring to mind as forward thinking, confident and still relevant to today as civic and city facing, generous and functional spaces, able to adapt and respond to ever changing modal shifts and user demands.

Indeed in the early 20th Century the carriages around King’s Cross were horse and cart; within 20 years all traffic was by internal combustion engine and today we look to accelerating change and the need to be able to respond to AI, ageing demographics and mobility needs in a sustainable and flexible manner. Indeed, the lengthy period of time between early inception, through design and planning to construction, commissioning and handover can see many changes in technology and demand for which our forebears provide timely reminders that in times of change and uncertainty, a clear vision and purpose are paramount.

What are some ways in which good design can positively impact on local communities?

In our work with Arup on the Belfast Transport Hub, we have worked closely with our planning consultant partners to engage and build support in a solution that the whole community believe in. From focussed community workshops through to planning, we were constantly engaged and our design responded to comments received within the technical parameters set by the project. This resulted in over 88 per cent support for the proposals outlined at our pre application workshops and a level of community engagement which showed just how much the city cares for its future. As a practice, we have initiated many community initiatives, notably setting up a studio in the heart of Tottenham High Road in London following the riots of 2012 to engage in constructive dialogue with the local community in understanding what is important in regeneration to balance commercial reality in delivery with the primacy of the function all building as serving their communities.

The Belfast Transport Hub is set to open in 2024, what was JMP tasked with on that project?

The Belfast Hub is not just an integrated transport project which delivers projected capacity increases to 2040, it is a transformational project which will support the ongoing renewal and regeneration of this confident and forward facing city. With Arup, we have worked proactively and collaboratively with the client, Translink (who own, operate and maintain all transport services in Northern Ireland) to define and develop a truly integrated transport proposal not just for the city and all communities it serves as the transport choice, destination and employment locus, but also as an enabler for wider connectivity, modal shift and future change in technology including AI, ageing population, modal shifts and most importantly, a sustainable and liveable city, in short, a project rooted in its landscape.

How do you marry the importance of the function and design of a station with the safety and comfort of passengers?

Safety and comfort are paramount. At the core of our approach, we are concerned with safe operations throughout the life of the project. We are working with operators internationally to remove user anxiety, integrating technology and improving customer experience. Through the design of facilities, information and components which are intuitive to use and on the way, not in the way, the changes needed to public transport following the Coronavirus epidemic could have a lasting legacy in improved customer experience and removing barriers to access for all.

Tell us a little about the McAslan Architecture Travel Fellowship and the RIBA ICE McAslan Bursary.

The AIA McAslan Fellowship is an annual fellowship and engages architectural students from US schools of architecture in social initiatives and is joint funded by the AIA and John McAslan Family Trust. The RIBA / ICE McAslan Bursary is a biannual bursary and engages Architectural and engineering students and recent graduates from UK and international locations to develop collaborative social initiatives.

Much of your philanthropy has been with the arts, what role does that work play in what you do with JMP?

John McAslan Family Trust doesn’t exclusively support the arts – although our leadership on the Burgh Hall project is indeed arts focussed. We support more generally covering education, community and arts projects.