London’s Cranes: a new skyline for St Pancras area

Camley Street Project, KSR Architects

In a European context of real estate crisis, London’s cranes are becoming quite a striking feature of the British capital skyline. Indeed, London sometimes looks like a gigantic worksite, with new cranes rising every day. Some of them generate debate, building brand new luxury towers right in the middle of some of the most iconic areas of the city, making local people – the soul of the neighbourhoods – leave because of the gentrification thus created. However, there are also a number of projects that have transformed key areas of the city into interesting and useful spaces.

London's cranes - Picture © Manuel Filippi Farmar

London’s cranes – Picture © Manuel Filippi Farmar

One of them is King’s Cross area, which saw the advent of cranes couple of years ago when its regeneration started. The aim was to revitalise   the former railway land, by connecting places and people in a critical area of Central London where Regent’s Canal meets St Pancras International.

Projects have been blossoming in the area over the past 5 years and recent graduates from Central St Martins will confirm that.  Within 3 or 4 years, the area transformed completely and most of the buildings of its new skyline weren’t there when they first started university. From a derelict area dominated by a massive railway infrastructure, a new borough was born, making the most of the urban landscape already there, and transforming the area in a really strategic space at a city scale. The regeneration of this area was quite a challenge as it represented a key area for the future of Central London. What’s more, the magnitude of the project added a challenging dimension as such a wide space needs master planning and collaboration to work properly – you don’t create a new neighbourhood just by building houses next to each other : you need to invest in a framework, and public equipment so that people can live together in the space created.

Design Development-Early Sketch of Camley Street, King’s Cross London © KSR Architects

Early Sketch of Camley Street, King’s Cross London © KSR Architects

One key actor in this successful regeneration is KSR Architects. Alongside AHMM and Glenn Howells Architects, they won the New London award for 101, 102 and 103 Camley street projects, strategic ‘gateway’ linking King’s Cross and Camden Town. The collaboration between the 3 architectural practices allowed for an innovative and clever design.

101, 102 and 103 Camley street projects – St Pancras regeneration area © KSR Architects

101, 102 and 103 Camley street projects – St Pancras regeneration area © KSR Architects

This regeneration project, consisting of three separate but interlinked sites, was praised by the judges, who awarded it as the unbuilt winner for its “contribution to the public realm, [which] enhanced the canal frontage [thanks to] a mixed-use development [on which] the three architects collaborated together to come up with a good solution”. Adjacent to Regents Canal, the project also delivers significant sustainable economic and community benefits.

Leading the 101 Camley street project, KSR developed a scheme comprising 121 apartments including 25% affordable housing, 2.200 sqm of flexible commercial space, a new canal footbridge and a range of residents’ landscaped amenity areas.

101 Camley Street, © KSR Architects

101 Camley Street, © KSR Architects

The site occupies a pivotal location within both the Regent’s Canal and King’s Cross Conservation Areas.  The stepped form of the building responds to its immediate context: it acts as a transition in term of scale and height and provides at the same time, the opportunity for terraced amenity and allotment areas for residents.

After going through the planning process successfully, KSR is now heading towards the next stage for this project. It will form, along with 102 and 103, an integrated urban complex which will shape the future of this strategic area.

“Our 3D printer proved to be an invaluable tool in the design development process allowing us to visually model the complexity of the development ” © KSR Architects

The award winning architectural practice, based in Camden (and Shenzhen, China), has an extensive portfolio which includes multiple unit residential and commercial projects as well as masterplanning of entire neighbourhoods within prime locations in the UK, Russia, Europe, China and the Caribbean. Most recently, KSR won the competition for a key site in Southbank, London. They impressed by demonstrating a clear and smart approach to urban integration -which is, in most urban metropolis today, the key to a good architectural project.

Words : Constance Desenfant


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