German Gymnasium, London

From Grade II listed gym to spectacular King’s Cross dining

It’s not often you get to restore an exquisite Grade II listed Victorian building, where the indoor events of the National Olympian Association’s Olympic Games were first held in1866. These games continued annually at the German Gymnasium until the White City games in 1908.

Situated metres from St Pancras International and King’s Cross Station, the German Gym is also right next to Seven Pancras Square, the Victorian social housing we converted into offices, and One Pancras Square, a six-storey new office we built at the gateway to King’s Cross Central, nicknamed the GridIron.

First opened in 1864, the German Gym was built for the German Gymnastics Society, and is the first example of a purpose-built public gymnasium in the UK, designed by Edward Gruning. Since then, it has been used as offices, a visitor centre, storage and exhibition space, and had a first floor and suspended ceiling added.
We've worked closely with English Heritage, to reveal the building’s original splendour, and transform it into a first-class dining destination at the heart of King’s Cross. Diners in the 150-seat brasserie are able to look up at the intricate roof or site out on the terrace looking out onto Battle Bridge Square. We have reinstating the original balcony, extended by a metre, all around the building to create a smaller restaurant and private dining area.

Project details

  • Customer: Argent Group Plc
  • Architect: Allies & Morrison
  • Detailed architect: BAM Design
  • Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon
  • Structural Engineer: Arup
  • Structural Design Engineer: BAM Design
  • Services Engineer: Hoare Lee
  • BREEAM: Excellent
  • Floor area: 9,000ft2
  • Value: £5.5 million

View related projects

Grade II Fact icon listed Victorian gymnasium
150 Fact icon Converted to seat D&D London brasserie
790m2 Fact icon illustrated mural wrapped around the building
BREEAM Fact icon Excellent targeted

Weatherproofing illustrated wrap

As much of the restoration work was done to the façade and roof, we needed a building wrap solution that would weatherproof the building and keep the public safe from the risk of falling objects.

We worked closely with developer Argent to design a permanent ‘mural’ to wrap around the building and  enhance Battle Bridge Square and the entrance to the King’s Cross Central development.

The giant mural was designed by artist Gregori Saavedra and is one of the largest illustrations to be rendered on a building wrap. The vast 790m2 artwork is inspired by the transformation of King's Cross and depicts some of the new landmarks and features of the neighbourhood.

We had to adapt the existing scaffold, designed for fly-away monoflex, to secure the huge piece of art safely. We also coordinated permissions and planning for an IRATA-qualified team of four to abseil down the scaffold to secure the mural. For a time this transformed the building site into a piece of public art.

Raising the roof

The most impressive part of the German Gym is its original bolt laminated timber arch roof, which has survived more than 150 years of history at King’s Cross.

The roof was hidden from view on the ground floor by the post WW1 installation of the first floor until recently but we removed the floor, allowing the unique Victorian laminated roof timber trusses to be viewed in all their glory from the ground floor.

The main exercise hall was a grand and elegant space with a floor to ceiling height of 57ft. Long forgotten sports were practised here, including Indian club swinging and broadsword practice. When it was first used as a gymnasium, ropes used to hang down from cast iron hooks attached to the trusses for gymnasts to climb up and rig their equipment.

We wanted to preserve as much of the original brickwork as possible so we carefully removed six rows of bricks that made up the roof to check how structurally sound they were. We found it tangled with roots and failing mortar, so we rebuilt seven courses of intricate detailing, using traditional brickwork techniques to fit with the heritage of the building.

We also reinstated the slate roof, added roof insulation, cleaned, repaired, painted and replaced the frames in the original windows, and even rebuilt some of the dormers, which give the façade its distinctive look.