Behind the Image

Granary Square, King's Cross, London

Lionel Eid, George Garofalakis, Rosie Garvey and Alice Raggett

Water: Particularly during the winter months, the use of water fountains cleverly helps to fill the vast space of Granary Square which is over 100m wide. In high summer the space acts almost like a beach for local families, with children playing in the water.

Details: The retention of subtle historic details adds texture and makes traces of the site’s industrial past visible. This is in stark contrast to the colourful branding and more blatant advertising used to signpost new openings and events in each space.

Then and now: The retention of ‘ordinary’ older warehouses, shown in their previous condition on the left, has helped to shape the character of the public spaces. Careful extensions and retrofitting with new details have transformed these buildings for modern use. This route forms part of the western edge of Granary Square and the widest route into Coal Drops Yard. One of the key characteristics of King’s Cross is this sense of connection and progression through a series of distinct and diverse spaces to explore.

Changing time and seasons: The stepped seating facing the Regent’s Canal offers different identities throughout the seasons, creating a destination, an art installation, a place to meet or just relax by the river, keeping people in Granary Square.

Planting and furniture: The amount of furniture and planting in Granary Square is minimal with movable temporary chairs and tables creating flexibility and informality. A group of trees defines a character zone within this large space.

Opening up the canal: The southern edge of Granary Square is more porous, formed by the Regent’s Canal at a lower level. This offers new connections to the towpath, public spaces and views along the waterway.

Skyline: Long views across Granary Square present a backdrop of varied building profiles and roofscapes. The heterogeneous skyline reflects the layering of development from distinct historic periods.

Reflection: Central St Martins art college acts as an important anchor in Granary Square, generating regular footfall through the space and a sense of creative identity for the area. The buildings have an openness to their facades, encouraging connections between internal and external public spaces. The careful management and curation of tenants by the developer, Argent, is a significant factor in the ongoing success of the regeneration of King’s Cross.

URBAN DESIGN 150 Spring 2019 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 150 Spring 2019

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One of Europe’s largest urban regeneration projects has created new public spaces embedded between relics of the area's industrial heritage.

In each issue of Behind the Image, one of our contributors visits a contemporary public space from around the world. The photography tries to reveal an alternative perspective on a familiar precedent, famous space or place. These images illustrate how the public space works in practice: exploring its features (designed and unintended), and the way it relates to the surrounding context.