Not five minutes after mooring up a voice hailed us from the bridge:
"Are you you staying the night? You have to fill a form in to confirm you realize there are no facilities available and you agree to leave after 24 hours." Les called up to say we were staying the night and the bloke on the bridge called back to us to say he would be right down with the paperwork! Efficient and timely! A few minutes later, paper in hand, a forty something guy in a red and black windbreaker and baseball cap with a black canvas bag across his chest came up to us with the form which we quickly filled out and signed. He and Les had a chinwag about safety in the area and I closed my eyes and drank in his London working man's dialect. No posh London school accent this--it was almost straight our of My Fair Lady! It seems the site is secure enough with the local development company providing employees who patrol the area from the bridge.
All sorted, Dear Sir invited me on a date: a tour of the old wharf and rail good yards and buildings. How could I resist? A handsome bloke, a slice of canal related history, and a new area of the Old Smoke (London's nickname) to explore!
A stairwell led from our canal side mooring at Kings Cross up to the street level on Goods Way where one could cross and walk down past a huge construction site to either Kings Cross or St. Pancras Rail Stations or continue to the right down Goods Way, and walk over the bridge to the campus of Central St. Martins-University of the Arts London (UAL) with its courtyard fountains and public arts installations.
This is what awaits at the top of the stairs--a giant construction site encompassing Kings Cross railway station surrounded by giant multi-track rail lines arriving from distance places.
|Directly across the street from the mooring stairs is Kings Road leading down to the new saucer shaped roof of Kings Cross Station with the spires of St. Pancras Station behind. These two railway stations are cheek by jowl with one another. St. Pancras station is where the Eurostar train leaves for the channel tunnel and continental Europe.|
|Standing above and in front of our mooring, looking across at the Granary building housing UAL.|
|Walking across the bridge. NB Valerie is moored down below on the right.|
Granary Square as this space is called, is the same size as London's famous Trafalgar Square. Both will hold 2000 people. The water can be turned off to provide a large assembly point or stage for productions. Two large musical revues and an Ice Cream Fair have already made use of this fabulous public space.
I love the bright yellow table and chairs and clipped trees for shade and pattern. It's a great place to sit and eat lunch or have a coffee and watch the changing patterns of the fountain--or people watch! There are five thousand students and employees who come and go throughout the day. Theater and Arts folk tend to be quirky and unusual. You never know what you might see!
Another lovely feature of this campus is free wi-fi outdoors! The plan is for all outdoor public spaces in this redevelopment to offer this service for free. Ambitious, generous, amazing. Bring your laptop and sit in the dappled shade touching bases with your friends, family or the world for no charge.
I can tell you are wondering what's up with the silver sashes splashed (say that five time really fast!!) across the front of the buildings. They are a public space art installation by Italian artist Felice Varini, encompassing the facades of nine Victorian buildings around Granary Square.
At first glance is appears that the silver slashes are spread about in a random fashion, brightening the exteriors of old warehouses, rail sheds, and canal wharf buildings, but there is an observation point where Kings Boulevard meets Goods Way in which all the silver banners will connect across one's sight line. Brilliant! Titles "Across the Buildings," this installation will remain in place until October 2013. It is sponsored by RELAY, a nine year public arts program showcasing contemporary art in Kings Cross public spaces.
So far I am in love with Kings Cross! Our heads are turning every which way trying to track all the sights, sounds, and experiences available for free to those with curiosity and plenty of time to check out the area.
We decided to mozey across the square and down the side road beyond the yellow chairs and tables. This is Stable street above, which runs between the old Coal Drops on the left and The Western Transit Shed on the right which flank the Granary building. When the redevelopment of this part of the project is completed the Coal Drops will house 80-90 retail units with food stalls and outdoor market bays. The Western Transit Shed will be retail and office space. Right now though, the space only hints at what is coming:
I think it's clever how this outdoor space is thoughtfully designed to include art and seating, even while it is in the process of becoming something else.
Eventually tall stylish flats will be located beyond this facade as well as reconstruction of the old gasometers which were dismantled. Once the flats have been built with green spaces in between, the gasometer frames will be brought back and rebuilt. One will house offices, the other will provide a public park space.
|Gasometer No.8 before being dismantled, 2009. © Kings Cross Center General Partner Ltd. 2013.|
|Future view of Gasometer No.8 filled with local folks enjoying the water features and the view across the canal. © Kings Cross Center General Partner Ltd. 2013.|
|Gasometer No.8, front, at night looking across the canal to the rail stations. Gasometer No. 9 behind, filled with office space. © Kings Cross Center General Partner Ltd. 2013.|
|This is an artist's rendering of Stable street at night when all the development is completed. The Coal Drops are on the left; The Western Transit Shed with its big bay doors lit up, on the right. |
© Kings Cross Center General Partner Ltd. 2013.
This is the Kings Cross Skip Garden! It's is a moveable feast--a vegetable garden on wheels allowing the entire garden project to move around the site as construction begins in new areas of the project. Looked after by volunteers affiliated with the Guardian Newspaper, Construction Apprentices, and Global Generation--a charity helping young people to create a sustainable world, the youth volunteers on this project learned construction skills, how to grow organic, sustainable food in a city, and how to market their product to local markets and restaurants. The Skip Garden also host a pop-up cafe on the first Saturday of every month from 10 am-4 pm. Brilliant!! (© Kings Cross Center General Partner Ltd. 2013.)
On around the building, we turned right into an area which was confusingly labeled in the past. I've found an aerial view and alphabetized the buildings as they were before redevelopment began. Working our way across this picture alphabetically:
A is the Midlands Good Shed--built by the GNR (Great Northern Railway) in 1850, it served temporarily as a passenger terminal until the current Kings Cross Station was completed, after which is became a three story warehouse. It will be restored and converted to offices, shops and cultural space.
B is the West Handyside Canopy. It was constructed in 1888 to provide covered space for the unloading of fish and perishables which were then distributed by rail and barge throughout London. Fish was sold here on Sundays when The city of London's Billingsgate Fish Market was shut. Rail transport ceased in the 1970's. The canopy has been restored and will be used as an events space, hosting weekly and seasonal markets.
C is the Granary building was used to store Lincolnshire wheat for London bakers. It is now home to Central St. martins University of the Arts London.
D is Kings Cross Rail Station.
E is St. Pancras Rail station.
|Underneath the restored metal West Handyside canopy the old rails still gleam! Up ahead on the right is the entrance to the University of the Arts London's Central St, Martins campus.|
Inside the old Granary Wharf building the space was amazingly restored with care, capturing the old and respecting its fingerprint while re-imagining the best means for a contemporary use as an arts school.
|This is the entrance to Central St. Martins: students and staff only. Coal buckets hang in the air--a tribute to the former industry on site.|
|Large loading bay doors have been left as passageways. This atrium houses art exhibits and hosts functions during the school term.|
We walked past windows of exhibits and students engrossed in installing their art in spaces large and small!
The helpful staff will fill you in on any aspect of this area: historical or contemporary. There are reference books and maps available for use. The lovely woman staffing the desk answered all our questions and suggested we visit two local sights that Les had no idea existed.
|The old wagon turntable rails have been left in the Granary Building floor.|
|3D interactive model of Kings Cross outside the Visitors Centre. Buildings and sections light up to illustrate the geography of Kings Cross.|
|This glass office housing the Visitors Centre. Granary square with its fountains is right out those front doors and the steps down to the canal are out front as well. |
Pictures above and below, © Kings Cross Center General Partner Ltd. 2013.