Helter Skelter* a new event space and public park.
Location: Kings Cross
Client: Argent (Kings Cross) Limited
Status: Shortlisted Competition Entry October 2009
Contract Value: £2.5m
We wanted to create an enchanting new public park for Gasholder No. 8, one that celebrates the joy and history of the gasholder itself and allows the public to explore the volume of the space and revel in the wonderful heritage of the structure.
We wanted to develop a proposal that acts as an attractor, not only as an amenity for the residents and the local school, but one that also becomes a destination in its own right, a reason to come and visit the new King’s Cross masterplan and a reason to come back, again and again.
The scheme comprises of a new public realm with a ramp, a stair and a lift that take you up high within the volume of the gasholder frame. There is a mid-level that includes a new Community Centre and an upper level with a rooftop bar/restaurant. Up here you will find something else too, a giant trampoline allowing visitors to bounce up and down within the frame of the gasholder and catch views across the masterplan and further afield. A long winding slide takes you all the way back down again to street level.
The new public realm treatment across the site knits in with the rest of the masterplan. Inspired by old Victorian lace, its pattern creates winding pathways, re-aligns different routes and defines spaces across the site.
The pattern can be expressed in lots of different ways – from flower beds and raised street furniture/lighting to a graphic treatment on the hard landscaping. Towards the primary school the lace pattern becomes a defined play area and learning landscape with raised beds for food producing planting or other science projects as well as a place for outside teaching and somewhere for parents to wait for their children when school is finished. Within the gasholder frame part of the pattern becomes slightly raised creating pathways with recesses in-between. These are to be filled with a shallow pool of water creating a reflective lace pool at the base of the gasholder. At night the pool will be lit thus illuminating the ground floor in a wonderful glow.
One of the pathways peels up to create the ramp taking you up to the mid-level. From here you can access the new Community Centre. The space is enclosed by a fabric skin that is also treated graphically with the motifs of the lace pools below; the enclosure is created with insulated timber panels to provide a thermally and acoustically sealed space, useable all year round. The intricate pattern is laser cut into the pre-fabricated timber cassettes so at night the light from within the building lets you read the pattern on the outside and make building glow like an old Victorian gas lamp.
The route up to the roof level splits into two, there’s a stair for a more direct route and a more gently sloping ramp that both pop out of the frame half way up and meet on a little viewing deck overlooking the water before continuing up to the roof level. The rooftop restaurant is a simple enclosure that rises up from the balustrade to create the walls and roof like a hood, shielding it from the residential buildings behind and orienting the view towards the canal.
The trampoline and surrounding netting create a flexible membrane stretching over the central void allowing you to jump up freely within the gas holder and fl y through the volume of the space. The netting mesh holding the trampolines in place is directly accessible and offers a front row viewing or picnic experience for those not suffering from vertigo.
The adrenalin slide swoops down and pops out of the frame as it curves round to ground level, hugging the columns of the gasholder frame.
By creating a programme of activity like this, opportunity is there for the events and activities to be both sponsored by the local community as part of a wider cultural and arts programme, as well as being available for commercial hire to companies or individuals.
We wanted to create a joyful playful volume of space that can be explored, somewhere to find your own way to enjoy this remarkable structure, from up close.