Last weekend I left St Pancras on Friday evening having marvelled (as I often do) at the sun shining through its beautiful roof. I then spent the vast majority of the next 48 hours outside in the natural world - my husband was learning to skydive so I've been looking up into the sky wondering if it was him who was coming out of the plane next! Whilst I looked upwards I also noticed a few other things including the red kites, which are now such a strong presence in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire following their successful reintroduction into the UK, and then the various trees which scatter our landscape. On Saturday, it was the tall poplars and the broad oaks which caught my attention for some reason - perhaps the hugely differing shapes took my fancy.
So, three very different things have encouraged me to "look up" over the bank holiday weekend - architecture, family, and the natural world. Simon Schama has denigrated the "look down" generation recently in his article on the Telegraph online. He spoke of the need to look up, how it humanises us all and of the dangers of selfies and mobile phones in jeopardising this. Whilst I sympathise with his views about the importance of, and benefits from, looking up I think we can, and many do, combine this with the benefits of modern technology.
At St Pancras International we encourage our visitors to look up regularly at the ceiling of the magnificent train shed designed by William Barlow, an innovative design for its time. For almost a century from its opening in the 1860s it was the largest single span arch in the world. When the station was refurbished in the early part of the twenty first century, the architects worked with English Heritage to select the blue paint colour for the metal work that spans from platform height over the top of the visitor, supporting the glass roof and returning to platform height on the other side. That blue (now known as Barlow Blue) brings the light of the sky into the station's heart - looking up can be uplifting for the visitor, just as it was for me on Friday.
To help everyone "look up" and benefit from this uplifting experience, HS1 Ltd. sponsors the Terrace Wires art programme. The third work of art in this series will be unveiled later this month, hanging high above the Eurostar platforms until October. Each of the pieces we have sponsored so far has inspired travellers to stop, look up and take pictures as they travel through the station - it only takes a minute or two of searching to find thousands of these pictures on the internet. Some are selfies, others are of groups of people with the artworks but those pictures have then been shared on the internet with their loved ones and often with millions of others. Looking up at the Terrace Wires art installation is, therefore, inspiring some to take photographs, share that with others and hopefully, in turn, inspire those others to "look up" and reflect on what they see around them. These photographs are the product of the modern technology which Professor Schama seems to despise.
Have a look up next time you are out and about and share what you see with others by taking a picture and posting it online - who knows, we might all be inspired.