Heatherwick wins planning for £100m King's Cross project

Nick Myall
Friday 18 Dec 2015

King’s Cross given the go-ahead for Heatherwick-designed Coal Drops Yard

Thomas Heatherwick has won planning for his £100m retail complex and piazza at King’s Cross in London, UK which will transform three derelict coal drops into 10,000 sq m of shops, restaurants, galleries and bars.

The green light has been given by Camden Council for the brand-new development. Coal Drops Yard, next to the Regent’s Canal, the Gasholders apartments and Granary Square, will offer an exciting array of boutique and destination shops and restaurants, ready to welcome visitors and shoppers in 2018.

In addition to the area’s new bars and restaurants, homes, schools, parks and squares, Coal Drops Yard will bring an eclectic mix of independent retailers and signature brands, all with quality and traditional shop-keeping values, and a focus on fashion and lifestyle. Coal Drops Yard will have around 65 units of varying sizes, including five larger anchors units, opening onto a central public space.

First built in 1850, the historic coal drop buildings were used until 1882 as a place to receive and store coal from the north of England, and were subsequently mainly used for warehousing. From the 1980s they housed nightclubs, including the famous Bagley’s, offices and some light industry.

Heatherwick Studio’s previous projects include the new Routemaster bus for London, the restoration of a historic paper mill for Bombay Sapphire and the conversion of a disused grain silo into a new museum in South Africa. The Heatherwick Studio design combines the bold re-use of the historic buildings at Coal Drops Yard with high-quality contemporary architecture that will create a unique shopping destination and major new public space at the heart of King’s Cross. Over a two-year restoration and build process, Londoners will see the existing Victorian buildings – the East and West Coal Drops and Wharf Road Arches – refurbished and re-purposed in a way that creates a stunning new upper level and improves connectivity, whilst allowing the original forms and functions to be read. 

The scheme includes the retention and repair of important historic fixtures and fittings and the proposed extension makes use of traditional materials appropriate to the historic building and its context. 

Thomas Heatherwick, Founder and Principal of Heatherwick Studio says, “We are thrilled to finally bring this extraordinary and largely unknown Victorian industrial site into public use for the first time. These two historic structures were never originally designed for people to circulate through and by themselves would have never made a successful retail destination if we did nothing more than clean them and fill them with shops; the distance between them being too great to have any social chemistry with each other and only two stories of activity would not create enough busy-ness and vitality. So rather than adding an entirely foreign new structure to connect the old buildings, we chose simply to bend and stitch the two roofs together, forming another level of activity underneath, and framing and weather-protecting a dynamic new public space for the city.”

The project is being led by King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP), with construction due to start in early 2016 and complete in autumn 2018.

Nick Myall

News Editor

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