Kings Cross Western Transit Shed

The land surrounding Kings Cross equates to approximately 67 acres which considering how congested London feels at times is rather surprising. In 2006 planning was granted for development of over 8 million sq ft of mixed use facilities and since then financing well in excess of £2.5bn is being spent on infrastructure regenerating what was previously rather an unkempt and rather notorious part of London.

The Granary Buildings are just one of the existing Lewis Cubitt buildings to be redeveloped and part of the structure now incorporates the Central St Martin’s campus, part of The University of the Arts London (UAL). MERO-SCHMIDLIN were instrumental in the conversion of this building carrying out over £12m worth of bespoke glazing and cladding packages both inside and outside of the 160 year old structure.

The Western Transit Sheds form part of the same building and when architects Stanton Williams and BAM Construction received the go-ahead to redevelop the arched front loading bays, MERO-SCHMIDLIN were again engaged to design, supply and install the facades. The client, Argent Kings Cross Limited Partnership were looking to offer a range of unique high quality shops and restaurants at street level with very contemporary office space beyond to suit businesses of all sizes.

As with the Eastern Goods Yard, this part of The Granary Development involved the refurbishment of sheds which were previously used to transfer freight from the trains to rail carts. The complex was created with horse and carts being used and part of the stables under the loading platforms have been retained. There was also a hydraulic turntable to turn train carriages around and cranes to load and unload the goods. The refurbishment has been very sympathetic to its heritage and there is certainly plenty of evidence to confirm its status in a previous life including cobbles and rail tracks. The resultant buildings have rather exploded the myth of Victorian precision craftsmanship as many of the arches are up to 3 inches off upright in both planes.

The task of designing and installing cost effective facades into these somewhat erroneous spaces required an element of rather avant-garde deliberation. For cost reasons it wasn’t possible to create an individual completely purpose built unit needed to be installed in a manner not to compromise their warranties and guarantees. For example, in the event that any of the specially prefabricated glazed units be installed anything other than fully upright any ingress of water would be considered as an installation issue. On the other hand, having to install a completely vertical unit within a pillar that is 75mm out of true in one plane, let alone two, would be noticeable even to the untrained eye.

The ingenious solution to all of the above was to design an outer sub-frame which was completely bespoke and could aim to disguise most of the inaccuracies. These sub-frames would then accept a plethora of standard components to meet the requirements of each commercial unit. The Western Goods Sheds now incorporate, retail unit, offices and restaurants with facades ranging from fully glazed receptions to shop fronts. MERO- SCHMIDLIN have worked in tandem with specialist fit-out contractors ensuring that the transition from external fit-out to internal fit-out has been seamless.

The colour scheme of the unit facades was a subject of much conjecture and the eventual coating is best described as an ‘Antique Brown’ which conveys both its heritage and gives the appearance of bare steel that would have mellowed to give what might now be called a ‘distressed’ finish. As the powder coating finish was neither a recognised BS or RAL Colour the MERO-SCHMIDLIN supply chain partners were asked to come up with a completely bespoke colour. Whilst this involved some ‘trial and error’ all parties have been very pleased with the resultant coating. It is indeed testament to the coating suppliers that the finish has remained consistent in colour, texture and gloss level throughout the whole project despite spanning several years.

Paul Allen, JPV (Painters) Ltd said:

“We were approached by Mero-Schmidlin, to achieve a site paint finish to match the original shop-applied powder coated system that was applied to the substrate prior to delivery and erection on site.

After various application methods were tried, it was found that the best match was achieved using a fine knap roller applied in one direction. This gave a very uniform finish matching the powder coating system.This also offered added benefits over spray application due to less masking/protection and environmental controls.”

MERO-SCHMIDLIN’s packages involved a very diverse product range both internally and externally. The Western Transit Sheds packages were secured as a result of similar work for BAM and the client on The Granary Building & Eastern Goods Yard which included a wide range of glazing and cladding on the U.A.L. Central St Martin’s Campus.

Richard Wardle, Project Architect, Stanton Williams Architects said:

“Mero Schmidlin (UK) PLC provided a seamless service over several phases of the Granary Building project, including the last phase of the Eastern Goods Yard Arches.

Their collaborative working methods and proactive approach to both design and installation allowed us to overcome a number of complex technical challenges, including working within a historic building fabric. Mock ups and benchmarks constructed before works began ensured aspirations for careful detailed interfaces and junctions were successfully realised throughout the project.”

Tim Pagram, MERO-SCHMIDLIN Project Manager said:

“The project offered it’s own challenges purely by trying to interface new build with old, in that the existing brickwork had moved/shifted over time and of course then trying to get new straight steelwork installed to interface properly whilst maintaining ascetic value proved extremely complex, but by working closely with the end user we were able to achieve what was required to the clients satisfaction, but only after some clever design engineering.”

Ewan Hunter, BAM Project Manager said:

“MERO-SCHMIDLIN’s commitment to the project was very professional, even extending to having one of their design team sit in with the BAM Project Team on an almost permanent basis. This enabled potential problems to be overcome at the earliest possible stage rather than wait until any of the made to measure products are on site.”

Barnaby Howe, MERO-SCHMIDLIN (UK) PLC’s Design Team Leader gave a brief overview of the package of works:

“As part of Western Transit Shed Contract 4, we installed 24 arches. These consisted of 15 large arched openings and 6 small openings to the west elevation of the WTS, along with a further 2 small openings and 1 very large multi level arch to the north gable end.

Initially the arches were only fully installed to the 1st floor portion of each opening, with just perimeter steelwork installed at ground floor, leaving the ground floor of each arch open. This was due to the clients intent for the occupier of each unit to provide their own shop front in the style and layout of their choice.

Over the course of the contract however, as units were leased, MERO-SCHMIDLIN were asked to complete the ground floor portion of a number of arches, installing the remaining steelwork, glass units, doors and internal cladding. Due to the clients desire to maintain a consistent visual appearance and high level of quality MERO-SCHMIDLIN ultimately completed the installation of all arches.”