The redevelopment of London’s King’s Cross has been a work in progress for years. A long-term plan spanning 67 acres in the city centre, it’s been the subject of endless “Oohing” and “Aahing” for its design-forward architecture, tenant mix, price points and eye to heritage. Google chose King’s Cross for its massive London office, premium and mid-market retailers are swarming in, the project’s infrastructure can’t be beat and the residential projects are among London’s most innovative. But no matter what may be forthcoming, the latest residences to hit the market — the Gasholders — could be the pièce de résistance.
It is hard to overstate how spectacular and outright cool the Gasholder project is. King’s Cross’ industrial past is well documented and it’s not something developers King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, including Argent, have ever tried to downplay. In fact, it’s often a selling point. Nonetheless the Gasholders are unique. Not only are they a feat of engineering and style, they will be the only apartment towers like them in the world when completed. In a city noted for creative regeneration and clever repurposing of the ghosts of industry — BBC’s Television Centre at White City, Ten Trinity Square, Battersea Power Station — the Gasholders has set a new, incredibly high bar.
Londoners will likely love them, but investors are crucial to the city’s housing development. “We have already had high levels of interest in Gasholders London from people based both in the UK and overseas, and from a range of ages and backgrounds,” says Argent’s Rachele Caltagrione. “However what they have in common are an appreciation of culture and an interest in architecture and the arts; a desire to live in a truly special building — a one-off; and a wish to be in a well-connected part of London.” The area infrastructure and amenities are stellar, as is the depth and breadth of the office and retail space in the project. And though there will be a total of 2,000 beautifully designed, sustainably built, contemporary homes, the Gasholders is, “A very special part of the portfolio,” argues Caltagrione. “Its apartments are almost all unique in their design, with some stunning details such as the poured resin floors and specially designed ironmongery, bespoke kitchens and the spectacular main atrium.” Amenities will include a spa, entertainment suite and a roof garden with stunning city views. “It will be the icing on the King’s Cross cake,” she boasts — and rightly so.
Of course, in Hong Kong the course of action would be to tear down the old iron poles and put a bigger, more standard block. But that was never an option at King’s Cross. Caltagrione points out a strong trend to restoration and repurposing that places value on heritage. “It’s a very welcome direction, to value our heritage and to open up some of these ‘cathedrals of industry’ to people once again,” she notes. “From a developer point of view, retaining the gasholder frames makes perfect sense: it will help us create a stunning and unusual apartment building. But importantly, it is also a lovely thing for Londoners, as many of us remember the silhouettes of ‘gasometers’ from our childhood. Bringing back the Siamese triplet will add another point of interest to the King’s Cross skyline.”
At the heart of the forthcoming residences is the trio of cast iron gasholder guide frames from 1867 — dubbed No. 10, 11 and 12. The Grade II listed structures, originally conjoined by one column, were dismantled in 2001 and fully refurbished, and have been repositioned on the King’s Cross site overlooking Regent’s Canal. Another gasholder, No. 8, was incorporated into a new green space that opened in November.
Architect Wilkinson Eyre (IFC Guangzhou) submitted the winning design in 2002, comprising three drums with 145 studio to four-bedroom flats. The “towers” will be different heights, mimicking a working gasholder, with a virtual drum at the centre forming a courtyard. The gasholders were created to power London through the industrial revolution and so remaking them as flats was architecturally taxing. “Perhaps the most difficult challenge has been to establish an architectural vocabulary that provides for the luxury apartments but also works with the historic cast iron gasholder frames,” explains Wilkinson Eyre Principal Chris Wilkinson. “The circular geometry of the space contained within the frames also proved to be a challenge for setting out the individual rooms of the apartments, but has worked well.”
Interiors at Gasholders will come courtesy of Jonathan Tuckey Design, slightly unusual considering architects are increasingly opting to handle both exterior and interior design for more holistic, coherent spaces. But Wilkinson had no control issues — and had bigger issues to deal with. “We are used to working with interior designers on the interior finishing of luxury apartments and that was the case on this project. Of course, we like to design each project right down to the fine detail but it is not always possible,” he admits.
Apart from the obvious, the Gasholders is that rare property that is an investment in design as well as property; a purchase rooted in tangible history as well as capital gains and yields. According to Knight Frank, rental growth at existing King’s Cross properties topped 4 percent in 2015, a three-year high. Even though he might be a touch biased, Wilkinson states simply the project, “[Has] exciting spaces which are derived from the radial geometry that open out to the perimeter with terraces and views over London … The Gasholder apartments are special because they combine all the benefits of an up to the minute lifestyle with the pleasure of living in an iconic, historic building.”
Gasholders sales launch March 5. For more information contact Mimi Capas at Knight Frank in Hong Kong by telephone on +852 2846 9521 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.