29 April 2021

New Case Study: King's Cross Sports Centre

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In the last ten years King’s Cross – the 27 hectare neighbourhood to the north of the railway station – has been transformed to create a new part of the city, with new businesses, restaurants and a lively cultural scene. Once the site was an industrial hub with a huge gasworks, 19th century warehouses and railway goods yards for coal, grain and potatoes, encircled by the Regent’s Canal.


Today these industrial buildings have been restored and repurposed; the magnificent brick and cast iron arches of Coal Drops Yard, for instance, are now filled with shops, bars and restaurants. Linking them are public spaces, a mix of parks, streets, squares and gardens with Granary Square at the heart of the development. More than 20,000 people now work in the area for companies including Google, Havas, ArtFund and Camden Council.


To serve residents of this new community, local office workers and visitors, the client commissioned the architect Bennetts Associates to design a community sports hall. It has an all-timber structure, chosen for its ability to create large spaces which would adapt to future use together with a warm and welcoming interior environment. Timber also fulfilled the brief to achieve a ‘near zero’ target of embodied carbon. But the other key reason for its use was the unique and challenging difficulty of the site; three railway tunnels known as the Gasworks Tunnels and built between 1849 and 1892, run only three metres below it. A lightweight structure was essential and timber – lower in density compared to other traditional building materials such as steel, reinforced concrete or masonry – was the clear choice.


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