Coal Drops Yard, London

Thomas Heatherwick
Date Built
King's Cross
Coal Drops Yard is one element of the redeveloped railway land behind King's Cross Railway Station.  The yard's website gives an insight into the area's commercial history.  "Until the early 1800s, goods were mainly transported to London by sea and inland waterways. The task was a slow and often perilous one. The coming of the railways changed everything – by canal, the journey to London from the north took weeks, by rail, mere hours.  King’s Cross became the hub for anything and everything – potatoes, furniture, tobacco, timber, whale carcasses! Whatever London required, it arrived at King’s Cross.  The most vital of these goods was coal. Victorian London was a city powered by coal, and Coal Drops Yard was its coal store.  The drops were long, covered structures built in three storeys. The trains entered under a vast curved roof on the upper level, the coal dropped from bottom-opening wagons through a hole in the middle level where it was sorted and graded before being shoveled into sacks at yard level for transport on by horse and cart."

Heatherwick's website explains how they have transformed this historic but neglected facility. ".....the studio has restored and transformed a pair of long Victorian warehouses with attached train viaducts to create a new public space and retail destination. Built in 1850 to receive coal for London as it arrived by rail from the North of England, the two-storey brick and cast iron structures were later adapted for light industry, storage and nightclubs until they fell into disuse by the late 1990s.   The studio’s design opens up the area to the public, linking the long viaducts and the yard between them to create a space for people to enjoy. Rather than making a box element colliding with the geometry of the existing roofs, the gabled roof of each building rises up and stretches towards the other, meeting to form a new upper storey that gives the project a central focus."