King’s Cross Square

Location: Camden, London

As London Mayor Boris Johnson put it, “The regeneration of the King’s Cross area is simply incredible, with the twin jewels of King’s Cross and St Pancras stations standing proud as the gateways to an almost 70-acre site of new buildings and streets, public squares, businesses, cultural locations and heritage sites, as well as many new homes for Londoners. The stations, the restored industrial buildings, the inspiring Victorian structures and surrounding lands have been handled with great ingenuity, sensitivity and foresight. King’s Cross station is delightfully inspiring and easily a match for the architectural marvels of St Pancras. For me, the Station Concourse is the ultimate steel-and-glass homage to the string vest.”

A mere twenty years ago, the idea that such could be said of one of the grubbiest and most seedy areas in central London would have been judged as cloud cuckoo land.  Against all the odds, the area has become a model of modern city living. It’s amazing what £3bn of investment can do. The transformation of King’s Cross, neglected for many decades and surrounded by almost forgotten relics of steam railways and decayed industrial revolution buildings seemed a project too far – financially. Now energy-efficient towers and premium apartments rise among the renovated Victorian buildings of the former Railway Lands.

After eight years of well-concealed upgrading Network Rail’s £560m revamp of King’s Cross station is complete.  The new Station Concourse, Its centrepiece, features a 985-ton, steel, wave-like canopy. The roof structure, designed by British architects John McAslan + Partners, is a fluid, awe-inspiring addition to the newly cleaned brickwork of Victorian engineer Lewis Cubitt’s mainline terminus.

The crowning touch to this transformation is the removal of all the cluttered accumulation of ad hoc bits and structural pieces in front of the station façade and their replacement by the beautiful and calming atmosphere of the new Kings Cross Square.

In April 2010, the architects Stanton Williams won the competition to design what is now the focal point of the total regeneration programme. Apart from the above ground challenges of this unique commission, beneath the surface an ant’s nest of Underground Railway tunnels, concourses and service ducting had also to be accommodated.

Permission had never before been granted for the planting of potentially mature specimen trees above such subterranean infrastructure.  Undeterred, Willerby Landscapes sought and obtained recognition of the suitability of GreenBlue Urban ReRoot 2000 as a root proof membrane between the tunnel roofing and the tree root sustaining soil environment.

The welfare of the growing trees has been assured by deploying the GreenBlue Urban StrataCell structural modular soil management system.   Capable of withstanding enormous vertical and lateral loads, 94% of the volume of these innovative cells is available, free from growth inhibiting compaction risks, for carefully selected growing medium.   GreenBlue Urban ArborVents and Castle tree grilles unobtrusively support the total arboricultural management of this nexus in a uniquely transformational London regeneration scheme.