There is a lot to talk about and celebrate at the newly opened Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross. Naturally, there are parts that are still being finished off and several shops and restaurants are not quite open yet, but there is plenty to admire and take stock of already. Even in its infancy, the place has a special feel about it.
To quote from their own website: “Coal Drops Yard is challenging the trend of faceless, endless, mass supply and demand by redefining what ‘consumption’ means”. Now, I always get nervous about grand claims of ‘redefining’, but there is certainly a deep sense of something different being done here. There is a sense of common purpose in the development for sure.
From a design perspective, there is one aspect of this project that gives it so much soul. It’s the fact that it has been entirely repurposed to become a centre for shopping rather than built from the ground up as a rationalised Shopping Centre. Sure, this is a commercial venture, but the clear goal here was to retain and extend the genuine uniqueness and sense of place that the site presents.
Much is to be admired in the big architectural gesture of Heatherwick Studio’s kissing roofs which knit the two main buildings together. But it is actually the subtle way in which all of the surrounding areas flow into the development that feels so special – the fabulously domestic scaled coal office at the entrance inhabited by Tom Dixon; the Highline-esque walkway across one end of the site; the archways left open so you can walk up to the canal… There is a huge sense of public space and generosity, and the result of this generosity is that the place feels hospitable and welcomes you in.
The layout, design approach and tenant mix exude the kind of creativity that only comes with a high level of personal investment. Niche brands, established creative led brands and esoteric startups are all mixed together. There is a huge sense that everyone cares about what they are doing here, including big brands like Cos, who have created a specific space for design innovation. Even the lift lobbies have a beautiful level of detailing, with each call button becoming a one-off sculptural piece to add a bit of joy to the otherwise mundane look.
The food mix here is equally enticing, notably including the first venture of Pip Lacey with Hicce perched atop the Wolf & Badger retail store. Might this interesting tie up set a new benchmark for the average high street retailer’s in store café? Who knows, but it works very well here.
People are going to write a lot about Coal Drops Yard and point to the future, trying to draw out trends for shopping and eating out that can be implemented elsewhere, but I hope that we do not miss the point entirely. This is a neighbourhood. This is a community. It is to be inspired by on a deeper level. It will be exciting to see how it develops over the next year and settles into its daily life.
Object Space Place is a London based restaurant interior design company, with a focus on storytelling and craftsmanship. They work with both brands and private individuals to create rich and enjoyable spaces and thriving businesses.