WilkinsonEyre wins RIBA Award for King’s Cross’ Gasholders

The imposing heights and traditional industrial aesthetic of King’s Cross’ reborn Gasholders grant me with a heart-warming sense of nostalgia as I work through this month’s issue of FC&A. I distinctly recall passing these once obsolete grand edifices on frequent occasions as a young child – their shells intimidating and ungracious in my architecturally-fresh eyes. Today, however, I can appreciate the city’s intrinsic connection to its industrial heritage and the golden age of craft – and interpret these ‘eyesores’ in a modified, more graceful light. The restoration of our historical architecture is vitally important, and re-purposing old period structures for new employment has never been more vital – particularly in the wake of the UK’s largely-documented housing shortage. WilkinsonEyre’s salvation and transformation of King’s Cross’ industrial landmark has done just that; sensitively amalgamated the historical architecture I recall from back in the ‘90s whilst coinciding with Britain’s housing crisis.

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Fact File

Location:

London, UK

Architect:

WilkinsonEyre

Structural engineer:

Arup

Dwelling type:

145 units (studio, one-bed, two-bed and three-bed apartments and penthouses)

Total net residential area:

15,290m²

Date:

Completed January 2018

Code for Sustainable Homes:

Level 4

Awards:

RIBA National Award 2018, RIBA London Award 2018

International Property Awards 2016:

Best International Architecture Multiple Residence and World’s Best Architecture.

T

o celebrate WilkinsonEyre’s recent RIBA National Award win for King’s Cross’ Gasholders, FC&A looks at the details of the project.

King’s Cross is the largest urban redevelopment scheme in Europe and the rich industrial heritage of the site is integral to its renaissance. Among the most distinctive and beautiful features to be retained is a conjoined triplet of gasholder guide frames, constructed in 1867, now Grade II Listed and the world’s only connected triplet to be refurbished into residential spaces.

WilkinsonEyre won a design competition in 2002 with a concept for three residential buildings to be housed within the elegant cast iron frames. The concept proposed three drums of accommodation at differing heights to suggest the movement of the original gasholders, which would have risen up or down depending on the pressure of the gas within. A fourth, virtual drum shape, located at the centre of the frames, formed an open courtyard, celebrating the conglomeration of the cast iron structures at their point of intersection.

The concept has been advanced to create a dynamic counterpoint between new and old. The heavy industrial aesthetic and raw physical materiality of the guide structures contrasts with the lightness and intricacy of the interior spaces, which draw inspiration from the delicate refinement of a traditional watch movement.

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