(Images courtesy of Heatherswick Studio. Coal Drops Yard)
Take a look from above on Google Earth and you’ll see what looks like a derelict patch of railway land by the side of the Regent’s Canal. But for more than a year, British designer Thomas Heatherwick has been working to transform the abandoned Victorian coal yard into a dynamic new retail quarter in the heart of London’s King’s Cross.
Coal Drops Yard, which was granted planning permission in December 2015, is now under construction and is set to open in the Autumn of 2018. The project will secure the long-term future of an important piece of London’s 19th century industrial history.
The coal yard was built in 1850 for the transfer and storage of coal from goods trains arriving at King’s Cross from the north of the country. The cast iron and brick structure once carried four high-level railway tracks which allowed wagons to drop coal into storage hoppers, which would then be loaded on to horse-drawn carts pending dispersal throughout the capital.
But the Victorian coal yard fell out of use during the 20th century and by the 1990s were largely used as workshops and nightclubs. Once completed, the renovated Coal Drops Yard will boast 100,000 square feet of retail space, including 65 shops, restaurants, galleries, music venues and a new public space amid the repurposed Victorian brick arches.
“But the designer also plans to adapt the pair of structures so that their traditional gabled roofs will curve up towards each other and meet”, Dezeen writes.
Heatherwick Studio said: “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… 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”, Heatherwick added.
Coal Drops Yard was commissioned by property developer Argent. The adaptive reuse project is spearheaded by King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP), which is overseeing the redevelopment of the wider area.