PRESS RELEASE: Form and façade shine in Coffey Architects’ new office building at King’s Cross

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Coffey Architects has completed its largest UK project to date, 22 Handyside Street for King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP). The latest completion at the 67-acre King’s Cross estate, 22 Handyside Street is a luminous, 36,000+ sqft office building.

A study in making a unique, commercial building that considers the health of its users, the building targets BREEAM Outstanding. The architects have taken a holistic approach to explore how the mass and skin of architecture can create shadow and light, and how those elements affect and engage the building’s users, ultimately improving their everyday lives.

Director Phil Coffey said, “Being conscious of the movement of the sun improves our health and concentration; it reconnects us to our circadian rhythms. 22 Handyside Street is a building designed around form and façade. Its orientation, cleave, percolation and shine quite literally reflect our approach to making a bright building that is striking in its form but also considered carefully in terms of tenant wellbeing. With the creation of a building that is both good to work in and expressive to the city, we continue to explore connecting users viscerally to their environment through the manipulation of light.”

The building’s form is determined by three factors: the position of the sun, the site perimeter and the site’s structural grid. Like its neighbouring building, the King’s Cross Sports Hall, 22 Handyside Street sits above Grade II-listed mainline and underground railway tunnels, meaning it needed to be super lightweight. Responding to these elements, Coffey Architects shifted the three-storey building diagonally. This helped balance the weight of the building whilst improving the orientation for heat gain, directional flow and outward views. The composition creates civic elevations to York Way and Handyside Street and effortlessly generates an expressive corner between.

22 Handyside Street is built of lightweight concrete and steel, with a façade composed of glazed curtain walling and embossed and perforated anodised aluminium panels. These silver sections enliven the building both inside and out, artfully reflecting the trees of Handyside Gardens and adding depth to the elevation. The material maximises ambient light levels and reflects the rhythmic colours of the London sky throughout the day. The main east/west axis along Handyside Street creates filigree moments of light at sunrise and sunset.

Behind the patterned façade, its interior spaces are lit with naturally dappled light, enhancing wellbeing for those working in the building. The CNC cut panels are sandwiched with either a solid, transparent or translucent skin. Respectively, the cut light and accompanying shadows are blocked out, cast shadows on the floor, or, extraordinarily, throw shadows onto the opaque vertical glass. These efforts create a moving wallpaper of light within the office floor.

The ground, first and second floors have very different feelings thanks to scale and dynamic light. Naturally lit by a triangular rooflight, the sculptural, central stair connects the three different levels. The stair is clad in black Valchromat that, with its light absorbing properties, creates a contrasting, compressing experience for the users before they enter the generous, light-filled office spaces. The deeply inset south-facing terraces at first and second floor level provide unique long-distance views over Handyside Gardens back across the King’s Cross Estate and the London skyline beyond.

The building’s pitched roofline carries the light industrial aesthetic of the fringe King’s Cross buildings to create a generous double height space on the top floor. Soaring to a remarkable 22 ft, together with the informal diagonal voids, this floorplate has the sense of a gallery-like space. Notably, 22 Handyside Street’s floorplates range from 6,980 sqft to 14,607 sqft. A 1,181 sqft reception greets tenants and visitors through a generous entryway.

To further improve wellbeing and provide opportunity for a moment of respite in the bustling thoroughfare, Coffey Architects worked with Townshend Landscape Architects to enhance the public realm. Soft landscaping to the east includes seating and pockets of planting and to the south is cycle parking.

Will Colthorpe, Partner, King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership comments, “It’s been a brilliant journey from design competition to completion. The whole design and construction team have done a great job and really pulled together these last few months. Many of us have been up to see the building early in the morning to watch the autumn sunrise reflecting in the façade – it’s one of those truly magical moments and the concept has been absolutely nailed.  The decision to lay the building out on a raked grid was an early masterstroke in the design and, combined with the vaulted ceiling, the finished space internally is pretty stunning.”

Phil Coffey added, “22 Handyside Street is a building that talks to the fundamentals of architecture, light, mass and form. At a time when many of us are working from home in less than perfect light conditions, this building  is a reminder that architecture can and will provide bright, fresh and healthy workplaces that we all wish to work in and are good for us.”

This project was delivered by BAM construction with Stride Treglown.

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