Timber canopy, sustainability and public art blend to create Brent Cross West station entrance
14 Jan 2024
Brent Cross West station in northwest London is the first major new mainline station in the capital for more than ten years.
Studio Egret West developed designs for the new station’s eastern entrance building. The project includes a 13m-high timber structure and growing frame that brings the themes of nature and sustainability directly into the arrival spaces of a new London neighbourhood.
James Cook, Associate at Studio Egret West, spoke to the London Society about the scheme. “We started the project back in 2019. Our idea was to have this amazing view that looks back across the square, for it to be the jewel in the crown of this space.”
The timber species selected is larch, which is hardy and good for external uses. The columns and beams are solid timber, with no embedded steelwork except in the connections, which equates to 150m3 of timber used on the project weighing a total of 75 tonnes.
Sustainability was at the heart of the design, says Cook. “We chose timber to bring to mind the proximity to the park. We wanted to give you that immersion. Timber is also sustainable, and has less carbon footprint than steel and concrete. And it is such a warming material, working really nicely against the hard textures of the concrete and granite.”
The design was not without issues, which Cook says needed a lot of engineering behind the scenes. “The cantilever was a challenge. We did wind testing and needed a few supporting columns on the outside. With a well-used building like a train station and some of it being outdoors, you need to think about weathering, so we partly clad it in aluminium.”
It’s a creative and lively solution for something as mundane as a station entrance. But by using natural materials, incorporating plants and a mural, it is very easy on the eye.
“The actual frame has simplicity and elegance. There's no fuss about it and the connection details are just quite simple,” says Cook. “There are canopies which are like hanging gardens that cascade down.”
The 250sq m frieze art work by artist Giles Round, Time passes & still I think of you, is dedicated to the artist's late mother Margaret Round, who spent some time working in Brent Cross shopping centre.
Cook says the artwork, created from brightly coloured, vitreous enamel panels pops with colour and pattern: “I think it works so well because it really lifts the concrete and doesn't jump out. It's not shouting, but really complements. You really get this sense of a cathedral-like space. There are certain times of the day when the sun shines through, really brightening everything.”
Brent Cross Town is the neighbourhood at the heart of the Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration programme. The new station and rail works are part of a £419 million government funding agreement. It is a joint venture between Related Argent and Barnet Council to develop a large-scale mixed-use development including 6,700 new homes, retail and office space, as well as improved schools and greenspaces in the area.