Coal drops yard at night; Coal drops yard at night;

Coal Drops Yard, London

How do you transform derelict industrial yards into a new shopping district for London?

At Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, Arup helped turn three largely derelict heritage buildings into a popular shopping and dining district.

An expansive new upper level with a sculpted roof unites the whole, while bridges provide additional links. Victorian brick viaducts are now home to modern retail brands and restaurants, with space in between for events, art installations and markets. Vestiges of the past are everywhere.

Building on heritage

Built in the 1800s for distribution of coal, for many years much of Coal Drops Yard stood derelict and was severely overgrown by vegetation. In the 1980s, a large area was gutted by a fire, destroying or damaging the original timber structure; the few cast-iron beams and columns that survived were in unknown condition. Another area hosted some of London’s most iconic nightclubs, with the structural fabric obscured from view.

Project Summary


13,500sqm of lettable space

8mtall structural glass façade

32mspan sculpted roof

In the absence of structural information on the original construction, it was vital to build understanding of the site’s structural capacity and condition, to make it possible to retain the Victorian architecture. With Arup’s knowledge of construction history, and by uncovering evidence relating to the site and working closely with the heritage architect, Giles Quarme Associates, we established an archaeological understanding of each phase of development.

interior of kissing roof interior of kissing roof
The view from the upper gallery in Coal Drops Yard

This has genuinely been a once-in-a-lifetime project for all involved, due to the scale of the ambition and the complexities of the heritage, buildings and retail offer... Arup has been absolutely instrumental in helping us to achieve a world-class design that will not, and cannot, ever be replicated anywhere else and we are extremely grateful. ” Morwenna Hall COOO, Argent

Innovation to solve challenges

We established early on that the existing structure had limited capacity for additional loads. So, we made the structure for the new upper level and roof independent from the existing structure. Using digital models to optimise the use of steelwork, they are instead supported on steel and concrete framing, threaded through the original buildings founded on new mini-piles squeezed within internal bays.

The upper level is enclosed in a tapering 8m tall structural glass façade. This spans vertically between the slabs and trusses, relying purely on the glass panels arranged in a folded geometry. The system is bonded with structural silicone to increase the stiffness and load-bearing capacity of the façades. We developed a digital model of the existing structure to realise the architectural vision of the new roof providing the basis for its design and coordination. The new sculpted roof has a 32m clear span and supports a suspended floor via steel hangers.


Collaborating to transform and reuse

Arup worked in partnership with the project team, local authority and Historic England, via workshops, meetings and site visits. Together, we refined and engineered the design to retain as much of the existing structure as possible, while upgrading building performance.

Find out more about our work in building retrofit