Friday, October 21, 2011

London: The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel

It is nearly a century since the Midland Grand hotel, the Victorian palace attached to St Pancras station, last flourished, and 76 years since it was a hotel at all. It is almost a half-century since the struggle began to rescue it from oblivion, 26 years since it had any full-time use and five since construction started to return it to its original purpose as a luxury hotel, with a wonderful spa too.

The hotel has been restored at a cost of £200m: ‘it has stood, like the weird house of a crazy old lady in some village, unmissable, spooky and inaccessible.’ The life of the city swirls around it and under it, in and out of some of the busiest train and underground stations in Europe (6 tube lines accessible from the hotel). It has been possible to see inside on the occasional tour, and its interiors have been shown worldwide to unknowing millions, as locations for Harry Potter, 102 Dalmatians, Batman, Richard III and other films requiring lavish Gothic creepiness. Now, its restoration nearly complete, it feels like both a lost world and something familiar, that has always been part of the furniture of London.

Inside, it is a thing of movement, a web of stairs and endless corridors. Even the coffee room, one of its most splendid interiors, is built on a radiused curve, like a railway viaduct, as if you had not quite left a train carriage. In short, this is one of the most exciting ‘new’ hotels on the London scene.

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