Heatherwick gets go ahead for canal-side shopping centre in London's King's Cross

| 21 comments

Designer Thomas Heatherwick has won planning permission to convert a Victorian coal yard in London's King's Cross into a canal-side shopping destination.

Located next to Regent's Canal, Coal Drops Yard will include approximately 65 shops, including five large stores as well as restaurants, galleries, music venues and a new public square.

The London-based Heatherwick Studio will renovate two existing buildings next door to the Central Saint Martins school campus, which were built in 1850 and used for storing coal arriving from the north of England.

But the designer also plans to adapt the pair of structures so that their traditional gabled roofs will curve up towards each other and meet.

Coal Drops Yard by Thomas Heatherwick

"These two historic structures were never originally designed for people to circulate through and by themselves would have never made a successful retail destination if we did nothing more than clean them and fill them with shops," said Heatherwick.

"The distance between them being too great to have any social chemistry with each other and only two stories of activity would not create enough busy-ness and vitality."



"So rather than adding an entirely foreign new structure to connect the old buildings, we chose simply to bend and stitch the two roofs together, forming another level of activity underneath, and framing and weather-protecting a dynamic new public space for the city," he added.

The 9,300-square-metre project was commissioned by property developer Argent and is being led by King's Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP), which is overseeing the wider redevelopment of the area.

Coal Drops Yard by Thomas Heatherwick

"Coal Drops Yard has been designed to be a shopping experience unlike any other," said Morwenna Hall, senior projects director for Argent.

"The design by Heatherwick Studio is a considered response to the important Victorian industrial buildings from the 1850s; in fact, the ability for future visitors to the Coal Drops Yard to appreciate the history and various functions of these buildings has been fundamental to the design process."

Heatherwick Studio is also believed to be working on the latest designs for Google's new London headquarters, which is part of the same development.

Camden Council granted planning permission for Coal Drops Yard in a meeting last night. Construction is due to start in early 2016 and complete in autumn 2018.


Related stories: see more stories about King's Cross


A teaser image of the proposal was revealed by the studio in October, showing the original cobbled streets and brick arches accompanied by a new bridge link. The latest pictures reveal more details about the bended roof design.

Heatherwick is currently working on several other architecture projects, including a plant-covered Maggie's Centre and the controversial Garden Bridge. He is one of several designers to make the jump to architecture, with others including Dror Benshtrit and Maarten Baas.

Top image is by Forbes Massie.

  • picky

    NO ARCHITECTURE, but the pictures are pretty. :)

    • Pretendgineer

      What makes architecture and how does this not qualify?

      • Aaron

        Apparently it’s only architecture if you like it.

  • Archindustrial

    What even is this? Looks like two slugs kissing…

  • Stephen

    The roofs look like a fun and playful addition to some otherwise very ordinary Victorian sheds. Given the location and the surrounding buildings, Heatherwick’s design seems suitably muted. A nice change from some other shopping centres. I do think Morwenna Hall’s claim that “Coal Drops Yard has been designed to be a shopping experience unlike any other,” is pushing things a little.

  • max

    Another vagina, from the inside…

  • Gunnar Burke

    Good luck.

  • fresh10

    I like what’s going on on the roof.

    • Fish

      That is all that is going on, oh, and a huge design fee so that this rather boring non-architect designed project can be marketed. Shame that, like all other Heatherwick projects, this will have to be rebuilt or pulled down in a few short years.

      • fresh10

        I think you’re so wrong! Firstly this “non-architect” you’re talking about is rather subjective and lacks substantive critique. The “boring” you see in this project I view as a considered response to the existing Victorian industrial buildings that were once there.

        I might be biased as I see this “type” of architecture as I attend CSM, in which the build was based on a similar manifesto, as well as the new Waitrose opposite CSM. However, If by “boring” you meant “sterile” I might have agreed.

        • Fish

          Fresh10, when I said ‘boring’ I meant ‘boring’.

          “Non-architect” is the perfect way to describe someone who has never studied architecture academically and produces structures that fall down (B of the Bang), are temporary so never are tested, or are just complete design rip offs (international athletic event comes to mind).

          Enjoy your time studying at CSM. With the completion of your studies as well as future years of industry experience you will have the ability to truthfully assess poor architecture such as this.

          We must all consider the future, where we will be left with all these structures which are the products of designers who are “subjective and lack substantive critique”. One liners are fun for a minute, however devastating to the design industry and to society at large. We have a responsibility to stop this kind of shortsightedness.

          • fresh10

            Sorry Fish! I somehow read your “non-architect” comment as “non-architecture”. I somehow combined yours and Picky’s comment together. By that admission, labelling your comment as lacking substantive critique was wrong.

            My second admission is that my BA is not in architecture, but product design. Thus my opinion on THIS specific piece of architecture was from the perspective of someone who might one day consume this architecture as an ordinary citizen, for the most part, as well as taking into account my own preferential (but undeveloped) design sensibilities.

            I do still, however (for now), view this work as a considered response to the existing Victorian industrial buildings, so I doubt my ability to truthfully assess poor architecture will ever exist. :)

      • Guest

        Some might say that’s the price you pay for not respecting the skills of a qualified architect.

      • Ben Bradshaw

        Are you not aware that Heatherwick Studio employs many architects?

        • Guest

          So Heatherwick leaves designing buildings to the architects he employs, and just sits back and takes the plaudits. Is that what you’re saying?

          • JC

            Hate hate haterade. All major architecture studios, whether or not they are headed by a licensed architect or not, have licensed architects as part of the team. This is a fact, so any pithy arguments that he is “not qualified” hold no weight.

          • Guest

            I’ve become convinced that those who use the hate epithet are more familiar with it than those they accuse, especially those who use it a childish three times.

  • ThatGuy

    More and more shops, just what we need in London, this project signifies what’s wrong ATM.

  • John Thornton

    My concern is that Heatherwick has a shoddy track record when it comes to accessibility and he will design yet another London “landmark” that will severely disadvantage disabled people for no other reason than that he is selfish, self-centred, arrogant and vain.

  • Bazza

    Heatherwick at his best here. Naysayers be damned!

  • Mr J

    Members of the anti-Heatherwick brigade seem to be out in force here.

    Well, I rather like it, especially the curving roof lines.