Sunday, May 18, 2008

THE END OF THE LINE: King's Cross out of joint 7

Walking through the Northern outfall is a melancholy experience. The phantom of an invented, slickly choreographed future haunts the landscape. Where are those photoshopped families, the joyful inhabitants of the yuppiedromes? They are not here yet, but their avatars stalk us.

- Savage Messiah

Take a look at the future:

Looking at them, we wonder if we have visited these places before. The boy sitting by the fountain, a black book in his hand, looking at the camera like a rabbit in the headlights - is that me? Difficult to tell. The background's all hazy - a miasma wraps the horizon in a veil. And if it is me, when was it taken? Could be anytime in the last five, ten years - these days, the years all roll into one.

Those CGI impressions of how King's Cross Central will be redeveloped have a pallid, haunting quality. The theory is, if you convert enough historic buildings into shops selling useless nick-nacks and overpriced designer labels, you will preserve some of those buildings' authenticity. But it is authenticity in the service of a timeless, placeless, eventless future. Nothing will ever happen in these forecourts and parks.

So have we indeed reached the end of the world, the end of history? Is St Pancras the final terminus towards which human history has been heading? These lurid photoshopped visions have already happened - we see them on every high street - and yet they appear hopelessly outdated in this age of anxiety. The models who pose in these new horizons cannot quite manage to raise a smile. Even inertia will reach a climax.

Local historians have noted that for centuries, from Iceni battles to smallpox, from rent strikes to street work, King's Cross has always been rife with decadence and deliquency. Camden's local politicians would call this sort of thing anti-social behaviour and try to slap an order on it. If everybody who had ever been awarded an ASBO came down with a baseball ball to Pancras Square or Goods Street or Cubitt Park when their red ribbons are cut, the end of history may be further off than we think.



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