King’s Cross is the largest urban redevelopment scheme in Europe and the rich industrial heritage of the site is integral to its renaissance. Among the most distinctive and beautiful features to be retained is a conjoined triplet of gasholder guide frames, constructed in 1867, now Grade II listed and the world’s only connected triplet to be refurbished into residential spaces.
WilkinsonEyre won a design competition in 2005 with a concept for three residential buildings to be housed within the elegant cast iron frames. The concept proposed three drums of accommodation at differing heights to suggest the movement of the original gasholders, which would have risen up or down depending on the pressure of the gas within. A fourth, virtual drum shape, located at the centre of the frames, formed an open courtyard, celebrating the conglomeration of the cast iron structures at their point of intersection.
The concept has been advanced to create a dynamic counterpoint between new and old. The heavy industrial aesthetic and raw physical materiality of the guide structures contrasts with the lightness and intricacy of the interior spaces, which draw inspiration from the delicate refinement of a traditional watch movement.
The exterior of the accommodation volumes are planned within each of the guide frames, expressed in a veil of metal and structural elements forming operable and static panels to control the environmental conditions inside. The dark steel cladding contrasts with elements of brass and bronze.
The apartments will be linked by a series of circular walkways around a central courtyard where water and light will reflect each other. Rooftop landscaping will connect nature with the urban landscape.