North of London’s Kings Cross Station, a once redundant 67 acre industrial zone is gradually being transformed into a whole new district, with homes, offices, shops, galleries, bars and restaurants, schools and university buildings.
As part of this regeneration, BAM has been involved in numerous refurbishment and new-build schemes since the massive programme began in 2007. One of the most ambitious and high profile of these is Coal Drops Yard, completed in Summer 2018.
Built in 1850, the historic coal drop buildings were originally used as a coal distribution and storage facility, before becoming warehousing, a nightclub and offices. From the 1980s, illegal raves and a major fire took their toll on the structures. By 2008 they were derelict.
Now, BAM has totally refurbished and re-purposed the Coal Drops to create a striking and unique shopping and entertainment destination, with 65 units, five anchor stores and a major new public space.
Thomas Heatherwick Studios created and developed the distinctive concept for the scheme, with BAM Design gradually taking on more of the detailed work from RIBA stage D. The two firms worked closely together to refine the design: successfully using digital construction to develop and implement the project.
The design combines the bold re-use of the historic buildings (two of them Grade II listed) with high-quality contemporary architecture. This includes retaining and repairing important historic structures, fixtures and fittings, such as the building’s Victorian brick arches: which now house an eclectic mix of boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Coal Drops Yard scooped Gold in the London Design Awards 2018.
Originally, Coal Drops Yard consisted of two distinct buildings separated by a courtyard. A key element of the project was the installation of a unique, sinuous roof that knits the two buildings together to create a stunning new upper level and cohesive activity space.
The 35 metre-wide roof extension – which has been likened to a pair of whales kissing in the air – is supported by 52 steel columns in a structure that weaves into the fabric of the 19th-century buildings.
With no option to dig foundations, the entire development has to be supported on steel piles. Installing these was a major challenge, especially since in some areas the headroom to work was only 2.2 metres. To create the huge steel structure to support the roof, BAM had to reduce the ground level in the wide, open public space between the two main buildings by almost a metre in some areas.
With the whole concept of Coal Drops Yard focused so resolutely on pushing creative and experiential boundaries, the design and construction needed to reflect this concern for innovation and attention to detail.
The actual build started in early 2016. But before any construction could begin, BAM undertook two years of painstaking demolition and surveying work to assess the condition of the original structures.
The new extension uses traditional materials. 300,000 imperial-sized red London bricks give the scheme its warm, local character: matching the original construction materials. BAM’s teams managed to reclaim over three quarters of these from the demolition work.
Fashion brands – from global icons like Paul Smith to emerging, cutting edge designers – have chosen the new district to showcase their collections to London’s design-conscious and affluent ‘hipperati’. Rock royalty Kate Bush even chose the development for her pop-up shop in November 2018.
The Victorian horse-stalls that run beneath Coal Drops Yard have been transformed into Lower Stable Street: an alleyway filled with experimental, arts-based businesses curated by one of the capital’s hippest design magazines. The development epitomises London’s growing reputation as a destination for style leaders and innovators.