In preparation for mapping the unknown territory in Anaklia, and discovering elements in Tblisi and Batumi we walked around King’s Cross, an area undergoing major redevelopment.
Having been given a brief introduction to the history of the area and the five sites we wanted to explore, we split into groups to initially scope out the areas and note down our observations. We regrouped and toured the sites together discussing each group’s findings as well as new uncoverings.
King’s Cross Station
At the entrance of the station opposite St. Pancras there was an ill-defined transition area. For example there is no clear juncture between the road paving and the pavement, which were level. Elements like obstructive parking and no clear orientation or access made it seem hard to draw people in and create a flow between the two stations.
In the main entrance square to the station use of large street furniture, housing trees, breaks up the space almost into a maze. The placement of bollards at the street edge implies that the square is for pedestrian occupation while there remains little unobstructed open public space. The fact that the building opens onto the square with exit doors further reinforces the hindrance of flow and gathering.
Some thought that the library had a harsh separation from the outside streets. There are instances of multiple levels of barriers, such as fences, walls, ditches, and stepped boundaries. Inside the boundary this creates a kind of secret garden by being sunken and enclosed, with a series of terraces and intimate spaces.
There is tight security through a small entrance which opens up into a grand lobby where the stair and the roof rise together towards the core of the building. The core is expressed as a monumental tower of stacked books surrounded by open galleries free for inhabitation. The library expresses a secure places for its collection and users while still being a public building.
Somers Town Housing
We went around different mid 20th century social housing and noted the difference in typologies. Low lying terraced houses in red brickwork arranged along internal streets characterises one of the typologies, while stacked higher density apartments in white stucco arranged around courtyards with external walkways characterises another.
The internal streets of the brick terraced houses felt more welcoming and secluded. Visually the stepping back of the building from the internal street gives an openness and human scale. On the street side the building steps out at a high level towards the street which seems imposing. There are a few areas where the open space is sunken, and in one area in particular was a large mound enclosed by a low wall which seemed strangely inaccessible, and perhaps functions more as a landscape feature.
In contrast the white multi storey building had narrow elevated entrance walkways which doesn’t seem to be inhabitable, or present much opportunity for social interaction. We noticed the two typologies both aimed to create semi private environment, through the use of the internal street, and the courtyard.
St. Pancras Old Church
The St. Pancras Old church is said to be the earliest Christian church in London. It stands in the setting of a green open space spread with majestic London Plane trees with large canopies. The church grounds is surrounded by infrastructure on all sides, including a road separated by a wall and fence; and the high walls alongside the extensive train tracks (the approach to St. Pancras International Station) forming a boundary. It seems overtaken by the development of King’s Cross, and locked in with little integration into any surrounding areas.
There was the interesting fact that the roof of John Soane’s wife’s tomb, which he designed, was an inspiration for the red telephone booths signature form. There is also a remarkable site of gravestones seemingly growing out of an old ash tree, the result of a monument created by Thomas Hardy when graves were pulled out of the ground to pave way for the development of the railway.
[#Image of Hardy Tree Tombstone Monument here]
The northern area has undergone extensive regeneration, much of it inhabiting industrial buildings and infrastructure like gas holders and the coal drops. The coal drops are a particular moment where the train network meets the old transport network of the canals and the two levels intersect, allowing them to pass over loads of coal. There is high density housing in the gas canisters with designed outdoor areas with high levels of security patrolling and surveillance as we walked through.
The housing abruptly ended with construction sites behind hoarding of ubiquitous leaf pattern that continued endlessly making none of the usual efforts to adorn them with publicity images, perhaps because it was in no way an inhabited area, next to industrial sites and only access roads. The housing development had a mish mash of architectural expression with high end finishes being a common factor.
We saw evidence of CSR (corporate social responsibility) with the Skip Garden, a café and garden tactically located next to the viewing platform used for publicity as it shows how the development is imagined.