Google HQ, boutique shops in old coal sheds, gasholders offering wedge-shaped flats at sky-high prices … as the vast project comes together after 18 years, our critic gives his verdict
The words “industrial luxury” are emblazoned on a window as you approach the cluster of majestic iron gasholders standing on the edge of the canal in King’s Cross. Built in the 1860s near St Pancras station, and dismantled in the 1990s when the station was expanded, the cast iron frames have now been reborn as the skeletal enclosures for three cylinders of luxury apartments – with prices beginning at £810,000 for a studio flat and rising, like the former gas tanks, into the many millions for a penthouse.
Industry and luxury are the two magic ingredients that have driven the £3bn redevelopment of King’s Cross in north London, tapping into the collective nostalgia for big brick sheds and the lure of a bit of bronze trim. Across 27 hectares of former railway lands, developer Argent has been piecing together a masterplan since 2000, employing 35 different architects to transform a gritty world of rails and warehouses into a polished vision of postindustrial regeneration. It is one of the biggest such projects in Europe and, despite the crass marketing slogans, it’s shaping up to be one of the best planned.