The development for Argent and the King’s Cross Partnership inserts 145 high-end apartments, with a gym and spa, inside three Grade II-listed, cast-iron gasholders
Three interlinked apartment blocks designed by WilkinsonEyre, with interior architecture from Jonathan Tuckey Design, have opened in a trio of gasholders as part of the wider King’s Cross redevelopment.
The three drum-shaped blocks are concrete-framed, and structurally independent of the historic frames that encase them. Each differs in height, designed to suggest a rise and fall in pressure inside the original telescopic gas drums. The exterior cladding of each block is composed of textured vertical panels of steel and glass, providing a veil of shutters around the façade.
A fourth gasholder frame has been left open – as ‘Gasholder Park’ – a green space with a 30m diameter stainless steel canopy designed by Bell Phillips Architects wrapping around it.
The ‘triplet’ gasholders, originally constructed in 1867, were dismantled in 2001 to allow for the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and then restored and reconstructed on a new site.
Each block has a spectacular, if slightly sterile, cylindrical atrium space at its centre, with circular walkways wrapping around it – off which the apartments are accessed: somewhat reminiscent of a retro sci-fi set – like the galleried hall in H.G.Wells’ 1936 film ‘Things to Come’. In between all three, there is an open courtyard where the intersecting structures of the three frames rise above a black porcelain reflecting pool.
The 145 apartments of this inevitably high-end scheme, range from studios – costing just over £800,000 – to nine double-height penthouses with internal spiral staircases and private roof terraces. Facilities for residents include the requisite private gym and spa, a business lounge and an entertainment suite with screening room, bar reception area and private dining room – as well as roof gardens designed by Dan Pearson Studios.
The apartments are arranged like ’slices of a pie’ on each level, in a combination of configurations. Internally they successfully overcome the constraints of the circular configuration of the plan, although their orientation around 360° will inevitably mean some will receive limited sunlight.
The detailed finishes and materials of the interiors – which make extensive use of brass detailing in the common parts – drew inspiration from the delicate refinement of a traditional watch movement. It seems this watchmaking cue is inspired by the interlocking cog-like plan of the three gasholders, intended to bring the massive industrial aesthetic of the original structures down to a more domestic scale inside.
Overall this is a rather extraordinary and remarkably convincing, if slightly perverse and pricey, inhabitation of these old industrial structures – more reimagination than retrofit.
Working with circular geometry has resulted in really beautiful ideas. What began as a challenge turned out to be a blessing. The gasholders are historic, industrial structures being redeveloped, but in a more enduring sense, we view it like a watchmaker would see a beautiful timepiece. We wanted to retain the presence of the structure but give it new meaning and use for the future. We’re placing new against old, finding ways to create an elegant contrast.
Chris Wilkinson, director, WilkinsonEyre
The Gasholders project represents an incredibly specific response to the industrial heritage of King’s Cross. We have worked closely with Argent and WilkinsonEyre to create a development that is shaped by complex, interlocking forms that generates a series of sculptural internal spaces. We believe in architecture that is fully integrated into city life and the Gasholders demonstrate how we can adapt iconic built forms for new purposes.
Jonathan Tuckey, director, Jonathan Tuckey Design