Eurostar opens a brave new world of design

Something to declare

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Does travel influence architecture and design? There's an interesting history here. Le Corbusier published a book called L'Avion Accuse! in 1935. Basically an album of seductively photographed aircraft, its purpose was to point the nagging and wagging finger of blame at architects who failed to achieve the sublime simplicity of the aerodynamicist.

But what about the way design influences travel? A good place to answer this question will be St Pancras International at some point in the near future. Eurostar's public face and facilities are being-redesigned by Christopher Jenner, a London-resident South African who was appointed creative director at the end of last year.

Jenner has also made proposals for new train interiors. We all adore Eurostar, but new interiors, indeed, new trains, will not arrive a moment too soon.

The original Eurostar interior was derived from the TGV Atlantique of 1986. The man responsible was Roger Tallon (1929-2011), France's outstanding independent design consultant, whose major client was SNCF.

Tallon was succeeded as a creative influence by Philippe Starck, whose distinctive queasy signature is on the existing Eurostar lounges. If ever it were necessary to prove that design is a matter of passing fashion rather than of inflexible philosophical absolutes, you need look no further than Monsieur Starck. Although he began work on Eurostar only at the beginning of the 21st century, his sensibility is inextricably of the Eighties.

Christopher Jenner's proposals for the new Eurostar check-ins are softer, looking perhaps as if the client were a posh Gulf hotel. Jenner refers to Gothic and Art Nouveau as inspiration. If this is considered appropriate for a sophisticated transport system, then we know all the precepts of modernism are baloney. But I guess we knew that anyway.

The lounges we do not yet know about, but a hint of what's to come may be derived from Jenner's work on the Penhaligon's perfume store on Regent Street. There are no terms in the art-historical vocabulary to describe what Jenner has done here, but it is certainly very colourful and busy.

If Jenner's proposals for the train interiors are realised, those of you in Business Premier will be sitting in organically sculpted shells, similar to some airlines' first class. And, if the computer-generated images are anything to go by, you will also be sitting on studded yellow leather. And as for the view, this will be fashionably immersive since you will have double height fenestration. My own suspicion is that, at 300km/h, the agoraphobic experience here will be not at all conducive to rest.

But what do I know? Wherever you look, there's a new sensibility in interior design. Hotelier Ian Schrager popularised minimalism (once an arcane art-world descriptor), then dumped it last year when he opened the London Edition hotel where the style is a sort of turbo-clutter. Eurostar shows this is a curious and exciting moment in design. And a disturbing one for those of us brought up on the old religion. Today, it seems, excess is more.

Comments