A listed modernist railway station is set to be restored to its original 1950s appearance.
Barking Station is primarily listed for the bold, modern structure of the Booking Hall, which was built in 1959 to the designs of H.H. Powell, the chief architect of the Eastern Region of the British Railways Company.
The station was rebuilt as part of the Eastern Region’s programme to electrify the line, which had been proposed in 1954 under The Modernisation and Re-Equipment of the British Railways plan, which set out the British Railways commitment to modernising railway lines across Britain.
Under this programme of rebuilding, Powell designed some of the best modernist railway stations of the mid-20 th century, and Barking Station, which is often thought to have been inspired by the iconic Termini Station in Rome, was one of the first to be completed.
The building, which was described by Pevsner as ‘commensurately modern in outlook and unquestionably one of the best English stations of this date,’ was conceived as a bold, double-height structure supported by 22ft high concrete columns set over fourteen glazed bays, with pre-stressed concrete beams cranked to create a ‘zig-zag’ roof profile and flying canopy over the station forecourt.
The concept was to provide a light, airy concourse with views of the exposed structure.
Sadly, over the years, the interior open layout has been filled up with shop units and clutter, while the structure of the building has been left to decay somewhat. The rear elevation of the interior has also been concealed under plastic cladding and large advertisement hoardings.
As the architects, Donald Insall Associates damningly note, the ” existing configuration of the retail units make the station more like a shopping centre with many cross flows that undermine its primary function as a station.”
The plan is to clear away a lot of the clutter, and re-create the original intent of the design for a clear open ticket hall space.
They’re not abolishing the shops, but by realigning them around the edge the open up the concourse, while actually increasing the amount of floorspace for shops. The smaller owners will lose out though, as the cluster of small shops will be replaced with two large retailers.
As part of the revamp, the external façade will be retained and refurbished with all clutter, paint and services/ systems removed. The existing concrete will be cleaned and refurbished. The concrete will be uplit with floor mounted spotlights to show off the original structure.
There is still a debate about what to do with the huge glass wall though, as it’s no longer compliant with modern security standards, but putting in compliant glass would involve a lot of changes to the thin concrete frames.
The first phase of the refurbishment will see the ticket hall area revamped, then at a later date, a pedestrian bridge added at the station to provide both step free access and interchange between platforms and ticket hall.
The ticket hall cannot have step-free access added initially, as the architects say that additional lifts could not fit between the structural frame and the foundations of the existing station columns.
Once finished, the refurbished station will have much more space for passengers to wait, more ticket barriers to get down to the platforms, and will once again look like the modernist exemplar it was when first built.
In an area which is swiftly filling up with fairly unimpressive residential tower blocks, the refurbishment of the 1950s concrete station ticket hall will remind people what good architecture can look like.
All images/photos from the planning documents.