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58 PROJECT REPORT: RETAIL DEVELOPMENTS Creating a heart


The new elevated roof “ribbons” are made of 20 steel sections bolted onto trusses at either end and tied back to the columns


was eventually earmarked to form part of the mammoth King’s Cross redevelopment, and Bagley’s, as well as two further clubs opened in the eastern building, were closed. The still-ongoing regeneration is being led by the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, formed of property developer Argent and investor AustralianSuper. The project includes a total of 36 architecture practices, each working on a different element. The 67 acres was previously “underused industrial wasteland.” Once completed, the site will hold 50 new buildings, 2,000 new homes, 20 new streets, 10 new public squares, 3.4 million ft2 500,000 ft2


of workspace, of retail space and 26 acres of


public space. Coal Drops Yard sits at the centre of this development, adjacent to another reinvention of Victorian structures, Wilkinson Eyre’s residential Gasholders scheme.


This eye-catching new retail project has been designed by Heatherwick Studio; the practice also responsible (with BIG) for Google’s new HQ, under construction on the other side the canal within the King’s Cross scheme. The newly-conjoined former industrial buildings now housing high-end retail are a key part of the new district. The project is significant for both Heatherwick Studio and Argent, but especially so for the architects. The studio’s office is just down the road, which made it special to them. “It will become part of our neighbourhood,” says project leader Tamsin Green.


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The original brief provided by Argent was to somehow link the long, two-storey and arch-filled brick buildings. They sit at a slight angle to each other, the western one being shorter due to the canal bending northwards alongside it. Green explains the designers’ thought processes in addressing the brief: “The original scheme that we designed effectively had two bridges connecting the buildings.” However, the more the studio examined the two buildings, the more they realised that this project required a more transformative response. Thomas Heatherwick, founder of the studio, commented: “The challenge to us was to create a heart that would hold and glue everything together.” Adding a third level seemed a natural way to unite the two buildings. However, the studio were keen not to just “drop a box on top.” It was thanks to the fact the roofs needed rebuilding – their state of disrepair combined with a large section of the eastern coal drop’s roof having been burned out made this a given – that the designers’ ideas started to evolve and they examined the possibility of “stitching” the roofs together instead.


When the proposals were first put forward to Camden’s planners, there was, says Green, “an element of surprise. We were very much deviating from what we had outline planning for.” However, this was contrasted by the project team’s excitement at the prospect of doing something more and “being bold,” Green explains.


As well as the planners, meetings were also attended by Historic England, who officiated on heritage matters. Workshop upon workshop took place with ideas discussed and sketched out, the studio “very much making them a part of the process of coming up with the idea,” Green explains. Although these discussions were characterised by lots of questioning from the two groups, ultimately, according to Thomas Heatherwick, it “made the project better.” In particular, he said he found it “thrilling” how ambitious Historic England were. “Britain has so many historic buildings and we can’t just have single formulas for how we handle them,” he added.


Heatherwick Studio group leader Lisa Finlay credits the planners’ cooperation to the dilapidated state of the buildings. “They were in really bad repair, so anybody who’s prepared to invest in them, obviously the planners want to work with them,” she says.


ADF FEBRUARY 2019


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