A Victorian-Era Train Station Waiting Room Will Be Transformed Into An Immersive Art Installation

An exciting new sculptural exhibition is set to take over a disused waiting room at Peckham Rye Station. Well, colour us intrigued! Acclaimed artist Sarah Sze is already renowned for her installations and sculptures. Her works are fragile and intricate, and often impressively grand. Now she’s set her sights on the Victorian-era Old Waiting Room, which sits in a vaulted space above the main ticket office and has been shut for fifty years. There, she’ll create a new train station art installation that will continue her Timekeepers series of large-scale sculptures.

Difficult though it may be for us North-of-the-river-ers to believer, Peckham Rye station was once one of the largest railways stations in England’s rail network. Reflecting that, an impressively vast waiting room was built to accommodate travellers. Over the years the Old Waiting Room was repurposed as a billiards hall, before closing in the 1970s.

It has laid dormant and inaccessible to the public since. However, recent restoration works to the station have extended to the Old Waiting Room, resulting in its impending reopening and repurposing for exhibition.

the shabby interior of the pekham rye Old Waiting Room, showing a room mid-renovation following the floors being restored
Credit: Benedict O’Looney Architects

Sarah Sze

Sze originally studied as an architect before taking up painting. The two disciplines quickly entwined, as she moved on to creating large-scale sculptural artwork. Her work immerses visitors in fragile structures that are complemented by found objects and video footage. Author Zadie Smith has described Sze’s work as being like an exploded iPhone, taken apart and expanded into 3D space.

A distant shot of a web of images and displays and lights clustered in the centre of a room
Sarah Sze. Twice Twilight, exhibition Night into Day, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2020. Photo © Luc Boegly

Sze’s sculptures have found permanent homes in La Guardia Airport, New York’s Second Avenue Subway Station, and MIT. Other installations by Sze have been exhibited around the world. This includes venues ranging from the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal to the Copenhagen Contemporary, in Denmark, the Fondation Cartier, in Paris, and beyond.

Said Sarah Sze:

“I’ve always been interested in certain times throughout history where our relationship to the way we experience time and space in the world speeds up radically. The invention of the aeroplane, the invention of the train, you see really interesting work coming out of that time, in film, visual arts and writing. We are in the middle of an extreme hurricane where we are learning to speak through images at an exponential pace.”

How to see the train station art installation

The immersive installation will take over the Old Waiting Room, Peckham Rye Station. It will open to the public from May 19-September 17. Entry will be free, and the artwork will be open from Wednesday to Sunday. Between Wednesday and Saturday the opening hours will be 12-8pm, while on Sundays it will be open from 11am-5pm.

Find the Old Waiting Room at Peckham Rye Station, SE15 4RX.