Coffey Architects were invited to enter the competition to design two new office buildings (with some retail on the ground floor) with high sustainability targets on the King’s Cross redevelopment site. The buildings were to be 11 storeys tall and to carry a strong identity that complemented the local industrial heritage. They should also bring lots of daylight to the interior spaces.
Motivated by our client’s commercial and sustainability drivers, we realized that there were many delivery advantages to creating just one design that could be built twice – hence the ‘Twins’. However, two identical buildings side by side carried risks. Visual repetitiveness and monolithic scale could impair the sense of place and public amenity, throwing planning permission into doubt. It could also damage the development’s commercial appeal.
Pushing the brief constructively, we evolved a simple solution. We could maintain visual interest so long as the buildings were built with an asymmetrical form and at 90 degrees to each other. The resulting configuration is visually complex but symbiotic, each building preserving its own distinct identity. The counterpoint arrangement also creates an unexpectedly engaging space between, a happy serendipity that we exploited to the full.
Echoes of the site’s industrial heritage resonated in the choice of concrete panels made from pulverized fuel ash. The interiors would meet high BCO standards, enlivened with quirky design ideas to create smart, practical, creative workspaces.
From concept, through massing, placemaking, office environment and materiality, the Twins were state-of-the-art offices, perfectly suited to a target market of high-end service-sector companies.
One Building by One Architect - Built Twice
The form of the Twins are generated by a series of cuts that are made in relationship to the space between them as well as the relationship to its context. The two sites at Kings Cross could be designed by two architecture practices or a single practice. Two buildings designed by a single practice have the advantage of the control of the gap between the two buildings; the disadvantage could be the sheer monolithic scale of the urban block and urban richness. The Twins resolve these issues by maintaining control of the gap and reducing the physical and perceived scale of the individual buildings whilst having the same language. Additionally the Twins could be delivered significantly quicker than two distinct and separate buildings.
The Twins have a symbiotic relationship with space between them 'The Triangle'. The Twins and The Triangle are both figure and ground in an urban sense. The Twins are both object and background buildings. The Twins have their own identity, a combined identity and a serendipitous space found between them which has an identity of commensurate importance. A unique urban composition on the Kings Cross site.
Smart Casual Interiors
A lot of large multinational companies are now recognising the need to create environments that encourage creativity. These companies take what is important from BCO standards and mix them with other design ideas to create smart, practical, creative workspaces. The Twins respond to this market. From concept, through massing, placemaking, office environment and materiality, The Twins are embedded in offering smart creative space to ambitious companies of all sizes. The Twins can be a place for bankers, lawyers, architects or internet startups; businesses who seek to attract and employ creative people.