What is beautiful here is that, unlike the wider world, this microcosm of Britain is being cleaned up – every awkward corner that formerly festered with rot and moss and crumbling blackened brick – sumps that attracted cans, bottle and filthy rags – is being replaced, repaired, repointed, planted and turned into a spick and span model environment. Along the new pathway beside the canal, trees are planted, leafless in February, like an architect's sketch of the Utopian future.
All of this turmoil has seethed around Camley Street Natural Park for the last ten years or so and to enter it is to leave behind the new industrial design of the Eurostar terminal, the gleaming modern street furniture and the simple monotone concrete bridge over the canal, In the park scrub and brushwood seem perpetually on the point of overwhelming everything, All here is textured, not a concrete beam in sight, not a plane surface or a straight line. Ancient narrow boats sag in the canal and the blackbirds seem to grant a stamp of authenticity to the island of nature.
In the new developments, details from the industrial past are preserved as character endowing features – railway lines in front of the London College of the Arts are cemented into the forecourt; the ring of pillars from the old gas holders are being re-erected as a backdrop for a shopping arcade and flats. None of these industrial details will ever be functional again here. Apart from the scenery, what this complex will produce, all being well, will be breakthroughs in genetic medicine at the Francis Crick Institute; designs that break out into the world of commerce; the books of course that are distilled from the British Library (the first institution to arrive here, back in 1998).
If there is to be a future for this country, it must be taking shape here at King’s Cross.