Goods Way, Kings Cross, London (Build Architecture Award Winner)

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  • Award winning venue, Kings Cross, London: The Courtyard, Lafayette, Sweet Water and Nola's

    Studio Ageli won Build Architecture Awards ‘Best Completed Entertainment & Hospitality Venue in London’ for this Goods Way, which is a 1,750 sqm entertainment space and live 600 capacity music venue in the heart of the vibrant Kings Cross development in London, which opened in March 2020. The complex scheme was the culmination of two years’ work for architects Studio Ageli, who transformed the basement space of an existing building into a multi-faceted, superlative music and hospitality destination.

    • The intricate design and layout used 15 different floor levels to effectively double the usable area and create five distinct zones; ‘The Courtyard’ entrance with five food kiosks and a bar, ‘Lafayette’ music venue, ‘Sweetwater’ bars, ‘Nola’s’ private lounge and large back of house areas, enabling the smooth function of both the live music and hospitality.
      • Straddling the Regents Canal, just north of the station, the Kings Cross Quarter development has reinvented the industrial heritage of the area becoming a successful hub for the creative and hospitality industries in recent years. The re-location of the London College of Fashion and The Courtauld and presence of designers like Tom Dixon as well as the vast selection of restaurants, shops and cafes radiating out from public squares meant the project was in the right setting and had great inspiration to draw from.
        • The project began with a precise brief from the client, Ben Lovett of the band Mumford & Sons. Informed by years of experience in the music industry, Lovett had a clear vision for the ideal London music venue. Must-haves included the specific capacity of the auditorium (just the right size for touring bands, unique in London) with perfect views for every audience member, split over two levels. There were also important and exacting layout requirements for the stage, technical areas and green rooms. Furthermore, a private lounge bar with a sense of mystery was requested, accessible to a Michelin starred kitchen and discretely linked to the venue. Five food kiosks and kitchens, 5 additional bars, cloakrooms, ticket offices, WCs, back of house areas and support spaces were then added along the way, all with good mobility access.
          • The opportunity for Studio Ageli to successfully meet this brief lay in responding to the unique requirements of retrofitting an existing building and connecting the new spaces together well.
            • The site was originally three distinct areas, each inaccessible from the other and on separate levels; The eight-metre-high entrance from street level was adjacent to the main space, over a three and half metre drop down into a cavernous subterranean void with a six and a half metre ceiling and large structural columns – tucked higher up into a corner was a disconnected and leftover space directly below a landscaped walkway. A further vital area was incorporated, enabling a critical second point of access, through the Pancras Square loading bay.
              • One of the great challenges in designing entertainment venues is to allow for enough space during peak times without compromising the design and sense of intimacy. Our solution was to utilise The Courtyard food hall and lower Sweetwater bar as ‘buffer zones’ to host people before and after shows (or during if they want a break) activating the entire venue and adding to the overall experience. The layout avoided bottlenecks and utilised and expanded thoroughfares with support spaces off them for smooth queuing, thus also minimising security. Another critical aspect of this was the introduction of hidden hallways, enabling seamless stage access from the green room and equipment access along ramps from the loading bay. Staff can also facilitate the impressive food and beverage offering at the venue, without interrupting guests’ enjoyment.
                • The subterranean nature of the site and labyrinthine spaces forced creative solutions. Routes had to be found for ducting to the roof and other services through the venue to a single point along the building’s façade at street level. In parallel, the acoustic performance of the auditorium had to be perfect while insulating the rest of the building from up to 105 dB of noise (particularly critical as Universal Music had installed recording studios in the offices above). This was quite an achievement given that building control (and in particular for fire) was met despite the complexity of the brief and the 1,141 total venue capacity.
                  • The project was successfully delivered to an ambitious, fast-track construction programme. Testament to its success and quality, the venue had already secured an unprecedented number of bookings and high-profile artists before opening.
                    • Design of this scheme rose to the combined challenges and opportunities of retrofitting with an ambitious client brief and demanding constraints to make every bit of space work hard and add to its atmosphere and character, which are important qualities in an entertainment venue.
                      • The client team brought valuable insight, expertise and a deep understanding of what the perfect London venue would offer with a vision to set an example of what can be achieved, making Good Ways unique.
                        • In the current crisis, interrogating the design of public spaces and hospitality venues does not at first glance seem pertinent, as people rightly turn their attention towards more imminent needs. However, when life does gradually return to normal, music and hospitality venues like Goods Way will be central to enjoying our newly rediscovered freedom. In the meantime, it offers a glimpse of hope for the future when we will savour each other’s company and the shared experiences of live music, food and drink once again.