Heatherwick Studio’s new retail hub Coal Drops Yard opens in London

Heatherwick Studio’s new retail hub Coal Drops Yard opens in London

Just in time for the annual Christmas shopping season, Thomas Heatherwick’s brand new retail hub for Kings Cross, Coal Drops Yard, has opened its doors in the British capital. The central London district has seen plenty of changes in the past few years, rising from neglected inner city former-industrial neighbourhood to being hailed as a model for urban regeneration, and this latest addition is set to offer a welcome injection of a retail element to the existing commercial and residential blocks on site.

Heatherwick Studio is behind the complex’s striking design – and the twin set of sweeping roof structures that sit lightly upon the project’s existing Victorian brick buildings, ‘kissing’ gently at the very top, creating the development’s visual shorthand. Clad in Welsh slate and placed lightly upon the original structure, this roof can even be taken down, if needed, without affecting the old building’s bones in the least, explains Heatherwick.  

Coal drop yards detail

Exterior detail of Coal Drops Yard. Photography: Hufton + Crow

The architects carefully studied different models within the typology, from shopping malls to vernacular retail districts, such as traditional souks, in order to create the best possible design and overall layout for Coal Drops Yard. As a result, there is a big variety in retail units, each nestled within the site’s existing brick arches. Larger restaurants are joined by medium sized retailers and small, specialist workshops, all hosted under the same roof in creating a vibrant urban experience. ‘Flow is absolutely key in this type of project’, explains Heatherwick. ‘You want someone to almost unthinkingly move through the space, so finding the right shapes and connections was crucial.’

Argent, the Kings Cross site’s developer, paid special attention in selecting the right retailers for this new London destination; offerings include Paul Smith, MHL by Margaret Howell and Aesop, but also COS and Samsung, who now occupy the flagship post under the roof’s peak. The most important element in the equation though, is us: ‘Coal Drops Yard is not about the product, even though this is of course important,’ says Craig White, senior project director for retail at Argent. ‘It is about the human experience and Thomas understands this and has done an outstanding job.’ §

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