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Kings Cross: Design In Desolation

A new creative hub for central London?

Written by . Published on September 5th 2011.


Kings Cross: Design In Desolation

AS London looks east for future regeneration, what becomes of the neglected spaces in the heart of the city? Kings Cross Central, a brand new development just north of Kings Cross station, aims to breathe life into a vast forgotten space, creating according to the developments promotional blurb: ‘A new piece of the city with a brand new postcode, London NC1.’ But will this regeneration project create a hub for creativity, culture and the arts as promised, or will it just become another soulless contemporary enclave with little resemblance or relevance to rest of London?

The site promises to offer a packed schedule of arts and events which will hopefully breathe a sense of place and personality into an undoubtedly historic but somewhat stale forgotten corner of north London. 

Central St. Martin's - John SturrockCentral St. Martin's - John Sturrock

The arrival of the Central St. Martin’s School of Art and Design in October will hopefully inject some much needed life into this collection of austere modern forms which have sprung up amongst the former industrial buildings. The new college building housed in a Grade II listed former Granary is described by the architects, Stanton Williams, as ‘a contemporary intervention which responds to the raw beauty and industrial background of the building.’ True, the block of glass, steel and concrete creates an interesting and complex juxtaposition to the plethora of Victorian buildings surrounding the structure. In fact, the structure creates a simple and striking background to the ornate and quaint Victorian structures that already exist on the site.

The Old Granary - John SturrockThe Old Granary - John Sturrock

The site promises to offer a packed schedule of arts and events which will hopefully breathe a sense of place and personality into an undoubtedly historic but somewhat stale forgotten corner of north London. In fact, the developers commitment to supporting high quality art goes as far as having set up an ‘artists in residence’ scheme for the entire development, coordinating a range of exhibitions, outdoor concerts, theatre and dance, hopefully injecting some life into the mass of new squares and parks planned for this urban oasis. The success of the scheme will undoubtedly be judged on the cultural legacy and impact it makes on our city and whether or not the grandiose plans for a collection of industrial relics are realised.

The cultural focus of the site will undoubtedly centre on Granary Square, the area immediately in front of the new Central St. Martins building. Larger than Trafalgar Square, the open space will be animated with over 1,100 jets of water and will intersected by the Regents Canal to the south. The square promises to host a packed schedule of entertainment and arts, and is poised to rival some of London’s most iconic outdoor venues. Encircled by cafes, bars and restaurants, the square also aims to become a lively and exciting venue with a pulsing atmosphere compared to many of the more severe and sensible open spaces in London.

Kings Cross - John SturrockKings Cross - John Sturrock

Like so many scheme before it, Kings Cross Central sets out with impressive ambitions – though many before have attempted to design a utopian haven amongst the bustle of the city and have failed miserably. Huge post war developments on a similarly huge scale to Kings Cross Central are now desolate wastelands inhabited purely out of necessity.

Kings Cross Central also promises to not become just another faceless shopping complex or Westfield clone with no personality and absolutely no sense of place. Instead, small commercial units based upon models seen within some of London’s more eclectic and unusual districts such as Spitalfields Market or Covent Garden are being utilised, encouraging new and unique small companies to set up shop in what is being dubbed as ‘one of the most unique destinations in retailing London has to offer.

With still around a decade until the site is projected to be fully completed, Kings Cross Central already boasts some pretty impressive credentials in terms of becoming an artistic hub in London to rival the likes of traditional centres of design and creativity such as Shoreditch or Clerkenwell. For example, The Guardian and Observer newspapers have been located on the site for over two years now in the Kings Place building, which flanks the Regents Canal and combines offices for the newspapers as well as an array of cultural amenities. This building manages to combine a powerhouse of journalistic talent along with a home for some of Britain’s more progressive creative institutions such as the Aurora Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta and in many ways is an architectural representation of what the entire site could become, successfully combing business and culture in one single entity. Despite the size of the project, Kings Cross Central still seems on paper at least to have been designed on a very human scale, with a real sense of homogeny between the different institutions who will ultimately take over responsibility of the site.

Like so many scheme before it, Kings Cross Central sets out with impressive ambitions – though many before have attempted to design a utopian haven amongst the bustle of the city and have failed miserably. Huge post war developments on a similarly huge scale to Kings Cross Central are now desolate wastelands inhabited purely out of necessity. Kings Cross Central though hopes that it’s well executed masterplan will alleviate these issues and that it’s balance of offices, residential complexes and world class cultural facilities will create a unique sense of community and place within our city.

For more information, please see www.kingscrosscentral.com

 

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