How do contemporary architectural forms exist within the context of loved; well-formed structures?
The British Library may have been built in 1973 it has always had to compete in the backdrop of St Pancras Station Hotel built in 1868. The British library is not a building that could be considered as subtle, demure or conformist. To focus on its external form; it moves away from a standard components in almost all of its parts and subsequent spaces. From its use of irregular sizes of bricks to grand sweeps of ceramic roof tiles; the building is bold, individual and grand in its own way; after all it hosts an institution of some magnitude.
However, its style form and figurative experimentation is nothing to the grandeur of the St Pancras Hotel; and yet it doesn’t attempt to be. The question is how does one create a compliment building without mimicking its forbearer; and in that vein; similarity seems to occur only in the choice of colour schemes at particular points and views experienced across the two structures. At moments the British Galley seems to bow down to the St Pancras Hotel and dote-fully frame its older counterpart.
This combination of individuality and contextual compromise worthy of praise simply because it’s a skill so rarely executed with and accuracy both here and abroad. Admittedly when approaching a building with the budget of The British Library there is a flexibility out of the scope of most projects. However, there are buildings with smaller budgets who achieve similar effects. The Architecture Foundation (until May 2009), The Great Court at the British Museum (Foster and partners) and the connectivity created between Tate Modern (Herzog & de Meuron), Millennium Bridge (Foster and partners) and St Paul’s Cathedral (Sir Christopher Wren)are examples of this, There are a plethora of examples which fall into the trap of mimicking and ultimately fail to create their own identity, individuality importance and contextual subtlety. They deserve and will get their own article.
This article was written in 2011 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time