A guide to Art & Culture at King’s Cross

With a rich tradition of creative activity and many world-class cultural organisations based in the area, the arts programme has been central to the development of King’s Cross. This guide takes you through some of the cultural highlights in the area including art, architecture and landscape design.

Did you know that most of the restaurants, cafes and bars at King’s Cross have outdoor terraces so you can dine safely in the open air. Here is the listing of where to eat alfresco in the neighbourhood. Or head to canalside Coal Drops Yard where there are more than 50 shops and restaurants to discover.

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My World and Your World by Eva Rothschild, 2020

My World and Your World by Eva Rothschild, 2020

Head to the top of Lewis Cubitt Park and you’ll find Eva Rothschild’s impressive artwork, My World and Your World. The 16m-high steel sculpture resembles an inverted tree or lightning bolt. Descending from a single point, the structure splits and diverges into a tangle of branches which sink into the ground. Referencing the natural world, it is both strong and fragile. Visitors can move in and around the work – this is somewhere to meet, play, picnic and relax.

Head to Lewis Cubitt Park and you’ll find Eva Rothschild’s impressive artwork, My World and Your World. The 16m-high steel sculpture resembles an inverted tree or lightning bolt. Descending from a single point, the structure splits and diverges into a tangle of branches which sink into the ground. Referencing the natural world, it is both strong and fragile. Visitors can move in and around the work – this is somewhere to meet, play, picnic and relax.

The artwork is painted in Rothschild’s distinctive palette of black, purple, pink, orange green and red. The stripes confuse the eye, seeming to split the solid structure into a multiplicity of parts.

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IFO (Identified Flying Object) by Jacques Rival, 2011

IFO (Identified Flying Object) by Jacques Rival, 2011

The giant “birdcage” in Battle Bridge Place is by artist and architect Jacques Rival. Named IFO (Identified Flying Object), the huge white installation stands 9m high, with bars wide enough for people to walk through and enjoy the swing that hangs at its centre. By day, the piece acts as a framing device for the daily theatre of the street, while at night the artwork comes alive in a brilliant array of neon colours, lighting up Battle Bridge Place.

Games We Play from The Photographers Gallery, 2020

Games We Play from The Photographers Gallery, 2020

This exhibition curated by The Photographers Gallery is the first part of the Outside Art Project – a permanent outdoor gallery in Kings Cross. The artworks in ‘Games We Play’ capture the joys of summer in a witty and subversive way and feature photographers such as Julie Cockburn, Luke Stephenson and Weronika Gęsicka. See the exhibition on the seating benches dotted all around King’s Cross.

Semaphores by Amalia Pica, 2019

Semaphores by Amalia Pica, 2019

Semaphores’ is a series of three sculptures by British-Argentinian artist Amalia Pica. Semaphore is a code that was used in early telegraphy to send text-based messages across long distances in visual form. Referencing it here links to the area’s role as a communication hub as well as to the tech companies located here who work in code. You can read more about the work, how to use it and decode it on the brightly coloured information signs near the steps at Granary Square.

Pattern Portraits by Lauren Godfrey, 2020

Pattern Portraits by Lauren Godfrey, 2020

Visit Coal Drops Yard this summer and you’ll see Pattern Portraits by Lauren Godfrey – an installation of 120 patterned flags stretching between the iconic roofs. Godfrey worked with Central Saint Martins students and local young people during lockdown to create this ‘giant quilt in the sky’. The sustainable installation is made up of 120 patterned flags which will later be turned into a clothing collection.

Not For Self But For All by Mark Titchner, 2014

Not For Self But For All by Mark Titchner, 2014

Organisations and businesses at King’s Cross have embraced the estate’s cultural ethos. For example, Camden Council, the area’s local authority, commissioned Turner-Prize nominee Mark Titchner to create a work that is embedded into its building using the borough’s motto, “Not For Self But For All”. Look up as you walk through Pancras Square, the artwork is in the top corner in the building that houses the council’s headquarters and public leisure centre.

Gasholder Park

Gasholder Park

Gasholder No. 8 is the largest of the iconic gasholders that once dominated the skyline at King’s Cross. Originally built in 1883 for the storage of town gas, the intricate wrought-iron structure was painstakingly restored and moved from the opposite bank of the canal to its new home in 2014. Today the gasholder frames a canalside park with a lush circular lawn. A stunning mirror-polished steel colonnade by Bell Phillips Architects adds a contemporary counterpoint to the Victorian structure, reflecting light and views of the surroundings. This is the perfect spot to relax and watch the narrowboats at St Pancras Lock.

Viewpoint by Erkko Aarti, Arto Ollila & Mikki Ristola, 2013

Viewpoint by Erkko Aarti, Arto Ollila & Mikki Ristola, 2013

Viewpoint is a floating platform that looks to bring architecture and nature closer together. This island hideaway in miniature takes the environment of Camley Street Natural Park out into the water and helps people discover the nature and wildlife of Regent’s Canal. Installed in 2014, the platform is designed by a team of young Finnish architects. Their inspiration is the rocky islets and islands of the Nordic coast. For Finns these islands are places of sanctuary, to relax the mind and get away from hectic city life. Viewpoint offers Londoners a chance to experience this escape on a secluded islet in the heart of the city.

4 Pancras Square by Eric Parry Architects

4 Pancras Square by Eric Parry Architects

The striking weathered steel façade of the building at the top of Pancras Square is inspired by the engineering of the Industrial Revolution and the railways that drove the expansion of London. The building is home to Universal Music and they proudly display their love of art in the lobby, so have a peek inside.  On the Goods Way side of the building, you can discover another type of culture at Lafayette London – a 600-capacity grassroots music venue created by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett and the team behind Omeara London Bridge.

The Google building

The Google building

The building under construction along the length of King’s Boulevard is Google’s new London headquarters. It is being designed by Thomas Heatherwick Studio and Bjarke Ingels Group who also designed Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters. At 330m, this ground-breaking building will be as long as The Shard is tall. and when finished, over 4,000 people will work here.

The Granary Building by Stanton Williams

The Granary Building by Stanton Williams

Designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1852, this vast, six-story warehouse once stored grain for London’s bakers. The building was transformed by Stanton Williams Architects in 2011, and is today the stunning home of Central Saint Martins, the world-famous art college. Parts of the multi-award-winning building are open to the public, and you can see the work of the students in The Lethaby Gallery.

Designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1852, this vast, six-story warehouse once stored grain for London’s bakers. The building was transformed by Stanton Williams Architects in 2011, and is today the stunning home of Central Saint Martins, the world-famous art college. Parts of the multi-award-winning building are open to the public, and you can see the work of the students in The Lethaby Gallery.

The building sets the architectural tone for the northern part of King’s Cross. Studios, workshops and lecture theatres are built around a broad, covered “street” with overhead walkways. This fluid space enables students and staff from different departments to talk, work together and spark off one another. The building also houses performance and exhibition spaces and the 350-seat Platform Theatre.

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Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio

Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio

The Victorian brick viaducts known as the coal drops have a long and varied history. Built in the 1850s to receive coal from the North of England, the coal drops have served as film sets, played host to counter-culture artists, and hosted some of the biggest rave parties in London. Reimagined by Heatherwick Studio, the coal drops are today home to boutique brands, independent craftspeople and an array of places to eat and drink. The so-called ‘kissing roof’ rises up and stretches, bringing the warehouses together in a central focal point.

Mentivity Exhibition shot by Leonn Ward, 2020

Mentivity Exhibition shot by Leonn Ward, 2020

The award-winning mentoring organisation, Mentivity puts the spotlight on the quiet achievements of London’s youth with this exhibition on Lower Stable Street. Shot by photographer Leonn Ward, this outdoor exhibition of striking portraits tells an alternative story of success and teenage life in the capital.

Lethaby Gallery

Lethaby Gallery

This gallery in the Granary Building showcases fresh talent in the world of art and design, exhibiting works from graduating students at Central Saint Martins. Art by staff and alumni past and present is also featured. A highlight is the annual art auction which takes place in November. Admission is free and you can view upcoming exhibitions here.

One Pancras Square, by David Chipperfield Associates

One Pancras Square, by David Chipperfield Associates

This freestanding building at the gateway to King’s Cross is by renowned David Chipperfield Associates. Deceptively simple in its construction, the building is distinguished by 396 columns made from recycled cast-iron. The columns, with their elaborate woven strap pattern, reflect the Victorian heritage of the location.

Granary Square by Townshend Landscape Architects

Granary Square by Townshend Landscape Architects

Comparable in size to Trafalgar Square, Granary Square takes its name from the large building that dominates its north side – now home to the world-famous art school, Central Saint Martins. In Victorian times, barges unloaded their goods here for transportation onwards to the homes and businesses of London. This aquatic history has been worked into the design in the form of the four banks of fountains.

Comparable in size to Trafalgar Square, Granary Square takes its name from the large building that dominates its north side – now home to the world-famous art school, Central Saint Martins. In Victorian times, barges unloaded their goods here for transportation onwards to the homes and businesses of London. This aquatic history has been worked into the design in the form of the four banks of fountains.

The strong, simple design and the use of salvaged materials are a reminder of the site’s industrial past. The main attraction here is undoubtedly the fountains which have an incredible 1,080 choreographed jets, each individually controlled and lit. The jets squirt and splash in patterns, surprising and delighting people of all ages! The fountains are closed for the time being, but instead, you can discover Stephen Zirwes artwork, “Pools”.

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Rhapsody in Four Colours by Rasheed Araeen, 2018

Rhapsody in Four Colours by Rasheed Araeen, 2018

This 35-metre high sculpture fills the atrium of the Aga Khan Centre. The lattice structure celebrates the connection between 20th-century geometric abstraction and the achievements of Islamic civilisation.

The Ghat Steps

The Ghat Steps

Leading down to the canal towpath from Granary Square are the ghat or canalside steps. This is a popular spot year-round, but it really comes into its own in the summer when the steps are clad in green grass. A natural amphitheatre, screenings, performances, and concerts take place here, including the ever-popular Summer Love Film Festival from Everyman Cinema.

Granary Square Benches by Ian McChesney, 2016

Granary Square Benches by Ian McChesney, 2016

The eight benches that frame Granary Square’s now-famous fountains are by the architect and sculptor Ian McChesney. Each bench is 8m long, 1.2m deep, and weighs around 4 tonnes. Carved from Cornish granite, the benches borrow the contours of naturally eroded boulders to produce smooth, comfortable forms that encourage people to linger and lounge.

German Gymnasium

German Gymnasium

Opposite the entrance to St Pancras International is an important sporting landmark – the German Gymnasium. The building was designed by Edward Gruning in 1864 for the German Gymnastics Society – hence the name. It was arguably the first purpose-built gymnasium in Britain and was influential in the development of British athletics. In 1866, the building hosted the indoor events of the first National Olympic Games.

Bagley Walk by Dan Pearson Studio

Bagley Walk by Dan Pearson Studio

This elevated park is built on a railway viaduct and takes its name from the iconic King’s Cross nightclub, Bagleys.  The park follows the curve of the canal and connects the Gasholder area with Coal Drops Yard and Granary Square. Low clipped hedges repeat the rhythm of the brick arches that support the viaduct. Between these hedges are seats, viewing areas and a rich palette of ornamental and edible plants that celebrate the seasons and provide a habitat for wildlife. Look out for liquorice, strawberries and fig.

Tapestry Building by Níall McLaughlin Architects

Tapestry Building by Níall McLaughlin Architects

The Tapestry Building is on the banks of Regents Canal by Gasholder Park. The architects have drawn on the strong tradition of using texture and tapestry-like finishes in building. This is evident in both the design of the building and its name. Up close, you’ll see the façade is decorated with a hierarchy of pattern types. These are distilled versions of Assyrian carpet patterns and Egyptian papyrus motifs sourced from Owen Jones’ seminal The Grammar of Ornament (1856), as well as a basketweave by sculptor Erwin Hauer.

This Much by Andy Leek, 2020

This Much by Andy Leek, 2020

To celebrate the reawakening of London after lockdown, street artist Andy Leek’s installations spread messages of hope and positivity around the neighbourhood. “This much” is the first part of Andy’s three-month residency at King’s Cross.

To celebrate the reawakening of London after lockdown, street artist Andy Leek’s installations spread messages of hope and positivity around the neighbourhood. “This much” is the first part of Andy’s three-month residency at King’s Cross.

For all these months, it’s been two metres of fear, loneliness and danger. I’m going to flip that into two metres of hope, positivity and humour. We all stayed apart to look after each other, to keep not only our loved ones safe but also strangers we’ve never met. It’s so easy to take things for granted until we lose them, so it’s nice to hold on to that feeling of how much we missed loved ones as things begin to return to some normality.” Andy Leek.

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Aleppo for King's Cross by Tess Jaray, 2016

Aleppo for King's Cross by Tess Jaray, 2016

In the lobby of the Tapestry Building on Canal Reach and visible from outside, Aleppo draws on a visit British painter and printmaker Tess Jaray made to the Syrian city before war broke out. The shapes and the colours of the piece come from her memories of the city and its architecture, the light and dark of the materials used and the shadows cast.

Almost Everybody by Tobias Rehberger, 2018

Almost Everybody by Tobias Rehberger, 2018

Looking through the entrance to the Gasholder apartments, you can see a myriad of brightly coloured lights. This installation by Tobias Rehberger comprises 41 handmade glass lamps hanging in five interwoven clusters, grouped by colour. Each lamp varies in size and volume, but there is a deliberate spanner in the works. Only four of the five clusters are on at any time – sensors in the lobby change the mix of illuminated clusters every time someone passes. This ensures those who enter the space have an influence on the art.

Pools by Stephan Zirwes, 2020

Pools by Stephan Zirwes, 2020

At Granary Square, two of the fountain bays have been transformed into virtual pools by German photographer, Stephan Zirwes. The two pools each span the length and width of two of the four bays and sit alongside other playful installations while the fountains are closed.

Lewis Cubitt Square by Laurie Olin

Lewis Cubitt Square by Laurie Olin

You’ll find this civic square at the top of the Coal Drops Yard shopping area, and just around the corner from Granary Square. Designed by American landscape architect,  Laurie Olin, who also designed Bryant Park in New York, the square features his hallmark arching water jets. Events, concerts and festivals are often staged here. The hoardings along the length of the square have been a key site for the arts during development, having hosted Rana Begum’s work – No. 700 Reflectors, and currently, Christine Sun Kim’s We Mean Business.

STORE Store

STORE Store

You’ll find this design shop with a difference on Lower Stable Street, Coal Drops Yard. STORE Store seeks to address the social imbalance within art, design and architecture education, by helping more young people into applied creative courses – especially those who might not have considered the pathway at all. As well as regular workshops giving a taste of what creative practice can offer, visitors will find unique pieces for sale, many made by students during After School Clubs.

Aga Khan Centre by Fumihiko Maki

Aga Khan Centre by Fumihiko Maki

Designed by Pulitzer-prize winning architect Fumihiko Maki, the Aga Khan Centre on Handyside Street is a place for education, knowledge, cultural exchange. The building is designed to represent the values of openness, dialogue and respect for different viewpoints. If you want to visit, the Centre hosts events, exhibitions, talks and tours that give an insight into Islamic culture. You can book online here.

R7 by Duggan Morris Architects

R7 by Duggan Morris Architects

This award-winning building in two halves is on Handyside Street behind Central Saint Martins. R7 stands out from its surroundings due to its two-tone pink façade. The ground floor is public, and visitors are welcome to explore the awe-inspiring lobby. The 7m tall atrium cuts up through the centre of the building and features Zanzibar, by Celine Condorelli. Here you’ll also find an Everyman Cinema.

Zanzibar by Celine Condorelli, 2018

Zanzibar by Celine Condorelli, 2018

You’ll find Celine Condorelli’s Zanzibar in the public lobby of building R7.  There are three sculptures – two inside and one out – that function both as public seating and a garden. The artwork is informed by tropical modernist architecture, particularly by work of the Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. The plants are a key part of the sculptures. The species chosen were used at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when museums sought to domesticate their spaces.

Handyside Gardens by Dan Pearson Studio

Handyside Gardens by Dan Pearson Studio

This was the first public garden to open at King’s Cross. The geometry of the park reflects the pattern of the railway sidings that once ran through this site, while the planting is inspired by the growth found on railway embankments. The railway has also influenced the technical design. Rail tunnels run just 4.5 metres below the surface here. This limited the depth of the soil and the number of trees that could be planted. The solution was to plant in raised beds which are framed in corten steel – a material used in the construction of the railways in industrial times.

Locus by Robert Orchardson, 2014

Locus by Robert Orchardson, 2014

Two curved mirror-polished steel screens arc through the reception of ArtHouse on York Way. This is Locus by Robert Orchardson. The work allows you to see different perspectives at once, reflecting both the outside environment of the park and the interior architectural details, as well as reflections of people passing through the space.

Pangolin Gallery

Pangolin Gallery

This gallery in Kings Place is one of London’s few exhibition spaces dedicated to the art of sculpture. The Pangolin presents a dynamic exhibition programme that focuses on the historic developments of British sculpture as well as the cutting-edge contemporary. Work is also exhibited in Kings Place and along the canal. Please note that the gallery is open by appointment only at the moment.

Paradigm by Conrad Shawcross at The Francis Crick Institute, 2016

Paradigm by Conrad Shawcross at The Francis Crick Institute, 2016

Some 14 metres of stacked, twisting tetrahedra that grow in size, Paradigm is among the tallest sculptures in London. The artwork embodies the concept that scientific advancement is not linear but rather moves in great shifts. The sculpture stands as a metaphor for progress, reflecting the ambitions of The Crick Institute. Its material – weathered steel – is a nod to the area’s industrial heritage.

Gagosian Gallery

Gagosian Gallery

This private gallery on Britannia Street hosts an ever-changing programme of contemporary art.  Owned by Larry Gagosian, it is one of 11 worldwide galleries. The large, airy space has showcased works from artists such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein.

Tracey Emin, I want my time with you, 2018

Tracey Emin, I want my time with you, 2018

Tracey Emin’s 20m long text piece greets travellers as they step off the Eurostar in St Pancras Station. The neon pink message is suspended from the station’s Victorian glass ceiling in the artist’s characteristic scrawl. Emin comes from Margate and grew up with the neon signs on the seafront, a marker of excitement and possibility. The sentiment of the work is both demanding and romantic, fitting for a station where people meet and say goodbye.

Anthony Gormley, Planets at The British Library, 2002

Anthony Gormley, Planets at The British Library, 2002

Planets is formed of eight granite boulders from a Swedish glacier, carved with human figures clinging to them. Gormley himself said, “They are hanging on for dear life. If you look at the world view at the time of the Renaissance, it was about the power of man to transform nature. What I wanted to show here was the dependency of bodies, our bodies, on the physical world and Mother Earth by carving these forms on to the rock itself.”

Edward Paolozzi, Newton After Blake at The British Library, 1995

Edward Paolozzi, Newton After Blake at The British Library, 1995

This part-man-part-machine bronze of Isaac Newton is a grand tribute from one artist to another. Paolozzi based his depiction on a 19th-century illustration in which artist William Blake shows Newton absorbed in scientific observation whilst ignoring the natural and spiritual worlds around him. Paolozzi said of the sculpture…

This part-man-part-machine bronze of Isaac Newton is a grand tribute from one artist to another. Paolozzi based his depiction on a 19th-century illustration in which artist William Blake shows Newton absorbed in scientific observation whilst ignoring the natural and spiritual worlds around him. Paolozzi said of the sculpture, ‘While Blake may have been satirising Newton, I see this work as an exciting union of two British geniuses. Together they present to us nature and science, poetry, art architecture – all welded, interconnected, interdependent.’

Anyone with a smartphone can scan the plaque on Newton’s plinth and receive a phone call from the great man himself, who talks about his early life and his scientific discoveries.

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Antony Gormley, Witness at The British Library, 2011

Antony Gormley, Witness at The British Library, 2011

Sculptor Antony Gormley has two artworks in the piazza at the front of the British Library. Witness, is an empty chair, cast in iron that stands in tribute to silenced writers. The sculpture was commissioned by English PEN – one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations – to mark its 90th anniversary. The empty chair is the symbol used by English PEN to represent imprisoned writers around the world.

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