Camden Council has given the green light for Heatherwick Studios’ proposals to convert two Grade II-listed coal drop buildings at King’s Cross into shops
Backed by developer Argent as part of the King’s Cross Development Partnership (KCDP), the 10,000m² retail scheme aims to ‘secure the long-term future of the historic [structures] built in the 1850s to receive freight arriving from the north of England’.
Councillors voted in favour of the proposals, hailed as ’London’s most exciting new shopping destination’ by 9 votes to 1.
Although the £100 million Coal Drops Yard project had been recommended for approval by the London Borough’s planning officers, the design had come in for criticism from heritage groups who complained that the proposals would damage the historic structures.
Before last night’s committee meeting (17 December) Alex Bowring, conservation adviser at the Victorian Society, said: ‘[The proposals are] an innovative response to a desire for more space. [However they] pay no respect to the listed status of the Eastern Coal Drops, disfiguring the roofscape to the degree of substantial harm.’
He also said that the planned ’kissing’ roof connecting the two coal drops was ‘unrelated and of little relevance to the structures they cover’.
Bowring added that because surviving examples of coal drops were so rare, ‘conserving the earliest example of this arrangement, as close to its original appearance as is reasonably possible, should be a priority’.
However, Historic England had supported the proposals saying the public benefits outweighed the ‘less than substantial’ harm to the listed buildings and surrounding conservation area.
Responding to the approval, a ’thrilled’ Thomas Heatherwick, founder and principal of 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 with each other and only two stories of activity would not create enough busy-ness and vitality.
We chose simply to bend and stitch the two roofs
’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.’
Construction is due to start early next year and complete in autumn 2018.
James Dunnett, architect and member of the Islington Society
’This architecturally illiterate scheme in conflict with the functional Victorian character of the listed Coal Drops has been granted consent on the basis of support from Historic England in face of the opposition of all other relevant amenity and conservation bodies.’
Morwenna Hall, senior projects director at Argent (King’s Cross)
’Coal Drops Yard has been designed to be a shopping experience unlike any other. The design by Heatherwick Studio is a considered response to the important Victorian industrial buildings from the 1850s; in fact, the ability for future visitors to the Coal Drops Yard to appreciate the history and various functions of these buildings has been fundamental to the design process.’
Proposed design for Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio
Source: Forbes Massie