King's Cross Central

Argent King's Cross Limited Partnership
London Borough of Camden
King's Cross in London has been undergoing a renaissance, one that has resulted in one of the most exciting and vibrant urban regeneration schemes in Europe over the last decade. The site comprised 27ha of disused and land locked rail lands, situated to the North of King's Cross and St Pancras Stations that represented an opportunity to transform the neighbourhood into one of the most exciting and vibrant urban regeneration schemes in Europe.
Masterplan Development
Townshend Landscape Architects were part of the masterplan team which included architects Allies and Morrison and Porphyrios Associates and started working on the development of the masterplan in 1999, following a design competition. The intention was to create a fully accessible and integrated piece of the city with a whole range of cultural, commercial and residential uses, including offices, shops, homes, a school, a university, healthcare and leisure facilities, within 19 designated development zones integrally linked to the surrounding city-scape and a high quality vibrant tapestry of public realm that includes 10 parks and squares.
Along with developers King's Cross Central Limited Partnership, the masterplan team conducted in-depth research of the site, its surroundings and its fascinating industrial history. This led to an analysis and evaluation of uses for the public realm. A landscape masterplan evolved that knitted in the new scheme with its surrounding context and created a framework of connections to open up the site. Historically the site was an industrial area of rail marshalling yards and consequently access was carefully controlled and limited for public access.
The public realm masterplan identified two principal routes to redress the access issues. The first, King's Boulevard, which opened in 2012, created a north-south link over the Regent's Canal from King's Cross and St Pancras Stations, past the Granary complex and on to the northern end of the site. The second runs east to west alongside the canal and created a connection between the historic buildings including the relocated Gas Holder, Coal Drops and the Granary complex. The masterplan team agreed that by establishing key pedestrian routes and spaces early on in the development that this would be both beneficial both to the community as well as providing a catalyst to further regeneration.
The site contained many historic buildings, structures and surfaces. Some of these have been retained or re-used on the site, harnessing the value of the heritage that has significantly contributed to the overall 'sense of place'.
Building King's Cross
Infrastructure work started on site in 2007 and soon afterwards the first major phase of public realm commenced. King's Boulevard and Granary Square were installed first, prior to the majority of the construction work on the buildings. This phasing allowed public access across the site from the outset, improving the connection across Regent's Canal and linking the northern and southern halves of the site. By establishing public use early on during construction the development gained a sense of identity and belonging, helping to establish the growing community.
Key Spaces
As the delivery of the masterplan has progressed on site Townshend Landscape Architects are working on individual planning applications for areas of open space across the site. These amount to 40% of the overall land area. As these public spaces are built across the site they are forming a collage of varied yet complementary spaces across the neighbourhood, each with differing characters and opportunities for use. The overarching concept is to create inclusive public realm routes and spaces for all users.
In Autumn 2011 King's Boulevard, with temporary surfacing, opened to the public providing a tree lined connection between the stations and the historic Granary Building by Lewis Cubitt, now University of the Arts refurbished by architects Stanton Williams.
Granary Square opened in 2012. It is of the largest urban spaces of its kind in Europe and an active focal point for the whole King's Cross area. The four banks of fountains reflect the facade of the Granary Building and plays host to an annual series of hugely successful public events run by the King's Cross Management Company.
In 2014 Pancras Square opened to the public. The square has created a place for people to relax in the predominantly commercial part of the site. A water feature steps down through the square and is surrounded by cafes, areas of lawn, planting and seating.
Lewis Cubitt Park was completed in 2014. Enclosed by tree planting, the park is landscaped with sculpted lawn and informal tree groups to provide a neighbourhood park for both active and passive activities in an informal setting.
Wharf Road Gardens was opened to the public early in 2016. At the eastern end of the canal-side landscape, a vibrant area of planting and raised lawns, edged with Corten steel, weaves alongside the northern side of the canal and includes playful opportunities for children that are built into the landscape.
Coal Drops is destined to become a unique new shopping destination based in Victorian brick arches, reimagined by Heatherwick Studio. Benefiting from a canal side location, historic industrial architecture and links to the generous King's Cross public realm network, Coal Drops Yard is at the heart of the scheme and set to become a focus on London art, craft, fashion and culture.
The public realm at King's Cross has quickly become heavily used and Granary Square in particular is now a London destination. Visitors mingle with local families, children splash and play in the fountains and water cascades while students hold impromptu exhibitions much to the delight of the resident office workers.
Events and celebrations are staged year round, from major festivals to intimate performances and screenings. Granary Square has also showcased public art, such as the hugely popular, 'Across the Buildings' by Felice Varini, and the pan London Lumiere light show. These activities reinforce King's Cross reputation as one of the most visited series of public places and an attraction for visitors, Londoners and locals alike.
Success is really about how people perceive it. Granary Square was selected by the public to win the Camden Design Awards Best New Public Space in 2013.
Design team:
Architect (Masterplan): Allies and Morrison and Porphyrios Associates
Photography: John Sturrock
2014 New London Architecture Award | Overall Winner
2014 New London Architecture Award | Winner of Masterplan and Area Strategies
2007 London Planning Awards | The Mayor's Award for Excellence
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