King’s Cross: Regenerating a Landmark

Model of the planned regeneration of King’s Cross and its environs, as currently on show in the Granary Building at the King’s Cross Visitor Centre.

I came home truly inspired after an extraordinary visit to an area of London which normally leaves me depressed and longing for escape; King’s Cross. I remembered the marshalling yards behind the station, a bleak site of utter dereliction, like something out of Dickens: dark eyeless warehouses beached on the edge of the grimy canal, colonnaded gasholders like empty vestal temples without walls, picked at by the wind, and scraggy rosebay willowherb, creeping up beneath long-silent railway tracks running into forgotten sidings. Desolate uninhabited wasteland…

Now a plaza spreads out, children dance in and out of crystal-clear waterspouts unexpectedly shooting up between the granite setts, people sprawl and talk on graceful new broad stone steps looking over brightly-painted barges on the canal. The damaged Granary has been nobly repaired as the central building of the University of the Arts London; the Goods Yard Offices will become a Museum of Illustration; the Fish and Coal Offices on the Canal and the famous German Gymnasium will become restaurants; the Coal Drops will become a market place; and the great blue and red gasholders will be re-erected to surround circular flats. Meanwhile, the entrance to King’s Cross Station itself has been completely rethought with the largest single-span roof in Europe, a breathtaking work of genius by John McAuslan. Altogether a tribute to the energy of London, the most exciting city of our time in the world!

Nicolas Friend, September 2012

Photo @ Nicholas Friend 2012

The INSCAPE study day, ‘King’s Cross: Regenerating a Landmark’ took place on Wednesday 26 September. For details regarding future study days, course and tours, please phone the office on 0208 566 7539 or email

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