Coal Drops Yard: Heatherwick Studio raises the roof

Originally published in The Architects’ Journal October 2018 and online at

Heatherwick Studio’s Coal Drops Yard scheme in King’s Cross converts listed industrial warehouses to retail and public realm uses with a flourish.

‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ – or, as you might say in 21st-century London, ‘one man’s ruin is another man’s retail destination’. Across the city, districts formerly imagined as dilapidated and delinquent are being reconstructed as shopping quarters where local context and history are either erased – as at Stratford and Elephant and Castle – or rebranded as heritage – as at King’s Cross.

While much of the King’s Cross redevelopment sparkles with new, blocky volumes from David Chipperfield, Maccreanor Lavington, dRMM and others, vaunting Classical Minimalism, New London Vernacular and Postmodern-revival among the smorgasbord of styles in the heterogeneous new neighbourhood, there is a central portion of the 27ha site devoted to its industrial heritage. Here, Stanton Williams’ refurbishment of a 19th-century granary building for Central Saint Martins remains the architectural apex of the multi-billion-pound project. A stone’s throw to the west, WilkinsonEyre’s Gasholders London houses luxury flats in the relocated iron frames of 1867 gasholders. Between these sits the newly completed Coal Drop Yards by Heatherwick Studio.

Originally published in The Architects’ Journal October 2018 and online at

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