Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

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Время на прочтение: 5 минут(ы)

Back in the 1990s, when the King’s Cross badlands were home to the best clubbing experiences in London, there was always a certain euphoria to be had as thousands of people danced under strobe light in the disused railway warehouses. In late October 2018, with clear blue skies overhead and sunlight casting long shadows on the ground, the atmosphere is a little different, but the sense of excitement and expectation just as palpable. One man with a salt-and-pepper beard is waving his hands in the air like he really just does care. Thomas Heatherwick, the designer behind Africa’s biggest contemporary gallery and New York’s Hudson Yards, is showing off Coal Drops Yard, a sweeping industrial landscape that’s the last piece of old-school King’s Cross to be revived and remodelled.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    King’s Cross is one of the biggest urban regeneration projects in Europe. Over the past few years it’s been in a constant state of evolution – blink and you may have missed the arrival of the Skip garden or Quentin Blake’s House of Illustration, or the Kerb street-food market, or Central St Martins fashion college. Granary Square, which adjoins Coal Drops Yard, has become a favourite hang-out, not only for those queuing for a table at Dishoom but for children skipping amid the colour-changing fountains at dusk, and those sitting with craft ales in summer on the turfed steps leading down to the canal.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    At Coal Drops Yard, the white rotundas of former gas holders rise behind sheer-faced brickwork. There are walkways, balustrades and staircases, gullies and girder-straight bridges. A High Line-style walkway, planted with grasses, wildflowers and railway sleepers, meanders over the arches at one end. But at its heart are twin symmetrical structures that meet above two parallel viaducts, sheathed in curvaceous roofs of Welsh slate that ripple like scales. They resemble two cartoon sharks bearing their teeth at each other, or smooching; or perhaps two enormous clams, their shells slowly popping open. Walk along the cobblestoned valley beneath the structures and they form teardrops with the sky. Look left and right and you’re rooted in the Victorian railway world of steam and smoke, look upwards and there’s an excitable thrill of Starfleet Academy about the design.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    ‘There’s joy in the tiny details,’ says Heatherwick, caressing a lift button. ‘With the biggest projects, it’s often the little things that people remember.’ Coal Drops Yard has the most memorable lift buttons you will see all year. Not simple discs of metal to be thumbed, but each imaginatively designed – Heatherwick was inspired by the bronze dog statues on the Moscow Metro that are ritually touched for good luck. One is a pudgy bronze belly-button, another an areola of thumb-sized impressions. Elsewhere are remnants of the age when coal and slate were brought here from the north: latticed iron brackets holding up nothing but air, like pointing arms, and freight depot numbers, ‘Berlin Bank 01’. Paint from Bagley’s nightclub has been left on brickwork; the patina of age and experience has been left unpolished. ‘There’s an illogical symmetry here which will enrich and give character, I hope,’ says Heatherwick.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    Underneath the arches on both viaducts are shops and restaurants and bars, carefully chosen for their considered approach. Paul Smith and Tom Dixon (visit the excellent Coal Office), Universal Works and Miller Harris, Casa Pastor and Barrafina. Samsung will be moving into one of the twin structures – King’s Cross has become London’s most desirable hi-tech hub. Pop-ups will appear every six months in the former Victorian horse-stalls running along the adjoining Lower Stable Street, making Coal Drop an incubator for fresh and experimental talent; performances, festivals and parties are planned.

    And while it’s been designed as a shopping destination, you can easily come here and wander and get lost amid the shadows and open spaces, and leave empty-handed. This is no squeaky clean piece of anonymous architecture, no Westfield, but part of London’s fascinating industrial and cultural past, full of stories, that’s been closed off for years. It’s easily London’s most successful makeover. Think of the city’s other big stations and they’re usually places you want to get away from as soon as possible – but Coal Drops Yard is a place you could stay in all day.

    Address: Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, London N1C 4AB


    Telephone: +44 20 3479 1795


    Website: coaldropsyard.com

    Scroll down for more pictures of Coal Drops Yard…

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  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    Cubitts’ eyewear store and Le Chocolat under the arches.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    Fred Perry (above), Paul Smith and Universal Works have opened shops at Coal Drops Yard.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    Footwear designer Tracey Nuels’ shop.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    Heatherwick Studio, the architect firm responsible for the transformation of Coal Drops Yard.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    The yard lights up by night, with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    The twin symmetrical structures are the focal point of Heatherwick’s architecture.

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross review: X marks the spot

    Coal Drops Yard by night.