King’s Cross was all about goods and railways before it was given a new life through a new masterplan that focuses on its users
With an extensive railway network and Regent’s Canal penetrating right through it, the King’s Cross region in central London had been a robust transport hub during the industrial age, shipping every kind of goods from industrial raw materials to fuel, bricks to clothes. However, like most such regions in the city, King’s Cross began to suffer from rapid urban deterioration after World War II, eventually becoming an area of notoriety in the 1980s, rife with prostitution and burdened with an unsavoury reputation as a hang-out for drug-dealers and the homeless.
However, regeneration plans began to surface during the 1990s and things progressed further as the High Speed 1 rail commenced construction after the start of the new millennium. Both King’s Cross railway station and St Pancras International were redeveloped in 2012 and 2007 respectively, while the site defined by the railways — the triangular, 67-acre King’s Cross region — was developed by British developer Argent in accordance with a masterplan penned by architects Allies and Morrison and Porphyrios Associates, both of whom would also design individual buildings within.
Constructed via four phases, the masterplan primarily focuses on activating the public realm and comprises 10 new parks and squares, 20 new streets, three new bridges and more than 400 mature trees, all of which will contribute to over 40 per cent of the development. “King’s Cross was about the movement of the goods, but now it’s entirely about the people,” says Robert Evans, partner at Argent. “The masterplan is about the streets and squares — the network and the arteries — while the buildings are more like framing devices. That is always the philosophy.”