Drawing circles: Bell Phillips Architects put a park in a Kings Cross gasholder
The regeneration of London’s formerly-gritty Kings Cross area continues apace. While much of it is still an unlovely building site dissected by an A-road, there are significant signs of life. Granary Square with its canal-side public plaza is a big hit, and has now been joined by the re-appropriation of a Grade II Victorian gasholder.
Until 2000, this 25m tall circular cast-iron frame was part of the largest gas works in the capital. However, the works were decommissioned and Gasholder No.8 was dismantled to make way for the new Pancras Square.
It was shipped off to Shepley Engineers, a specialist restorer based in Yorkshire to be refurbished, and is now back in King’s Cross. Bell Phillips Architects has transformed the refurbished frame into a circular public park and events space by the canal, next to David Morley Architects’ Plimsoll Building.
Bell Phillips’ idea for Gasholder Park was to construct a canopy of polished stainless steel panels around the inner perimeter of the frame. The mirrored panels are perforated as a contrast to the industrial nature of the frame.
Beneath this canopy hang 150 mirrored fins, suspended at different distances from each other depending on their position. Visitors will be delighted by the many reflective surfaces, and the views through and between all that metal.
Architect Hari Phillips was inspired by the mirror labyrinth sculptures created by the Danish artist Jeppe Hein. ’In the early design stages as the concept was beginning to emerge, we visited Hein’s Mirror Labyrinth in London’s Chiswick Park,’ says Phillips. ’The elegance with which this simple mirrored structure delivered such a rich and vibrant sensory experience was profound and instrumental in convincing the design team that the colonnade would result in stunning new space.’
Inside the colonnade is a simple lawn, while Dan Pearson has planted shrubbery and other flora on the periphery.
Gasholders are not only good for al fresco structures - another three are currently being refurbished nearby into new homes by Wilkinson Eyre.