Coal Drops Yard is a redevelopment project in heart of Kings Cross in central London. The area includes two long Victorian warehouses with train viaducts built in the 1850’s that were used to receive goods, including coal, arriving by rail from the North of England. The yard has served many purposes over the years even housing London’s biggest rave venue Bagley’s for two decades. Thomas Heatherwick was assigned as the architect to restore and transform these freight rail yards and the surrounding area into a vibrant creative public and retail space.

Studio 29 was appointed by Argent LLP to provide a creative and innovative lighting scheme that enhanced key areas and harmonised with the existing lighting scheme. The goal was to attract more visitors, encourage them to stay longer and increase prominence and visibility of retail and office units. The main challenge for this project was the integration of the proposed lighting scheme into existing infrastructure whilst still maintaining the discerning aesthetics of Coal Drops Yard.

The key areas that Studio 29 focused on include the Fish & Coal (Tom Dixon) building, signage lighting to the retail units, the Heatherwick ‘Kissing Building’ soffit and the viaduct soffit along with lighting enhancements to Lower Stable Street.

Coal Drops Yard contains Grade II listed buildings, which meant integration of any new luminaires had to be sympathetic to the architecture, minimise penetrations into the building fabric and follow a site wide strategy for finishes and materials. One of the most challenging yet creative parts of the project was designing a bespoke signage light fitting to meet with the requirements of the brief and the demands of all of the individual retailers which had to integrate successfully within the historic architecture. Numerous sketches and mock-ups were undertaken to design unique, aesthetically pleasing and technically capable lighting solutions to each area.

We undertook studies on pedestrian flow to determine the main viewpoints and gateways into Coal Drops Yard. One of the main entrances encompasses the Fish and Coal (Tom Dixon) building. Wall lights with bespoke mounting back plates create a striking sequence of light beams along the facade. The gable ends were highlighted with linear LED in a bespoke cowl finished with special paint to blend seamlessly during the day whilst effectively lighting the gable. There was a crucial need for a new light to replace the existing floodlights along the viaducts. The new light had to effectively illuminate retail signs of varying shapes and sizes, provide upward facade illumination onto natural brick finishes as well as downward general illumination for pedestrians to aid wayfinding. The solution was a family of bespoke blade signage lights that cater to each of unique locations, the different retail unit’s typology, whilst still allowing a consistently lit effect within Cold Drops Yard.

The final lighting scheme successfully creates an inviting space which encourages people to investigate the shopping experience and increases more dwell time, allowing pedestrians to fully appreciate the unique character of Coal Drops Yard.


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