Two 19th-century warehouses in central London have been playfully remodeled as a design-led mall with a difference.
Thereâ€™s a revival gathering steam on the doorstep of Londonâ€™s Kingâ€™s Cross station. What used to be a grim wasteland of goods yards and storage sheds is undergoing a multibillion-dollar overhaul that has seen luxury apartments, boutiques, a cinema, and an art school spring up in the last decade. But the hottest new addition is Coal Drops Yard, a post-industrial retail and dining precinct that made its debut in October.
For its first major project in London, Kingâ€™s Crossâ€“based Heatherwick Studio was tasked with converting a pair of 1850s warehouses where coal was once stored and transferred. The architects have retained much of the buildingsâ€™ Victorian fabric, with the aged cast-iron columns and soot-stained brick given only a light restoration. Now, the most striking feature is the sweeping winged roof (clad in the same blue-gray Welsh slate used for the original) whose two halves rise from the buildings to meet over a cobbled central courtyard.
Tucked within the warehousesâ€™ brick archways is an inspired mix of pop-up stores, independent retailers, established brands, and casual-chic eateries. The former coal office stretching along Regentâ€™s Canal houses not just a lighting and furniture showroom of star industrial designer Tom Dixon but also his firmâ€™s office, workshop, and restaurant. Inside the flagship store of ethical fashion retailer Wolf & Badger, which curates more than 700 emerging labels, newly minted Hicce offers a globetrotting menu by the former head chef at Murano, a Michelin-starred Italian fine-diner in Mayfair. The influential Hart Brothers have opened three venues elsewhere in the complex: The Drop, an all-new wine bar serving up mod-British fare; Mexican taquerĂa Casa Pastor; plus the fourth branch of beloved tapas bar Barrafina (the Soho original holds a Michelin star), this time with a Catalan bent. All told, itâ€™s reason enough to spend a few extra hours at Kingâ€™s Cross before catching a northbound train. Â
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This article originally appeared in theÂ December 2018/January 2019Â print issue of DestinAsian magazine (â€śRaising The Roofâ€ť).