The studio was commissioned by the King’s Cross Development Partnership to revitalise the site into a retail quarter. We wanted to celebrate the unique texture and history of the industrial buildings while also creating a unified new public space and retail destination. Our challenge was to transform the dilapidated buildings and long, linear site into a lively retail precinct where people could gather and circulate with ease.
Rather than simply making a boxy element between them that would have collided with the geometry of the existing roofs, the ‘kissing’ roofs rise up and stretch towards each other until they meeting together. This bold intervention formed a new upper storey and gave the project a central focus.
An amalgam of old and new, the roof form and patina is specific to the site. The new 35-metre-wide extension was designed to flow seamlessly from the original gables and create the illusion of two buildings lightly touching.
Alongside the primary design adaptation of the roof is the wider restoration of historical structures. The studio sought to enhance and adapt existing buildings as much as possible. Adopting a light touch, where necessary, new additions drew on the palette of aged ironwork, soot-stained brick, slate, timber boards and the cobbled yard of stone setts. Together with more recent signage and graffiti, these rich textures are retained, preserving the coal drops’ distinct character. The name of the district, Coal Drops Yard, is a nod to the rich industrial history of the site.