Google's landmark campus moves out of the sidings

This Thursday Camden council’s development committee will convene to decide upon the reserved matters application for Google UK Ltd’s £650m London campus, one of the most talked about and anticipated commercial developments of recent years.

The detailed plans, which have been lodged by King’s Cross Central developer Argent and are planned for Zone A of the 67-acre King’s Cross Central site next to King's Cross Station, have been recommended for approval by Camden planning officers who describe them as “unashamedly modern” but also relating well to the surrounding heritage townscape.

There have been no objections from interested bodies such as English Heritage and Network Rail. The Allford Hall Monaghan Morris-designed scheme is expected to be completed between 2016 and 2017.

The single building rises from seven to 11 storeys and proposes 923,942 sq ft in total split into: 870,681 sq ft of offices; 53,259 sq ft of shops, food and drink facilities; a staff cycle store offering 574 spaces at ground floor level; and significant external landscaping.

The shopping, food and drink uses will be developed at ground floor level fronting on to Kings Boulevard across 16 units.

Google UK Ltd has signed a lease agreement with the site owner Kings Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP) for the building but under the terms of the agreement KCCLP will retain the ground floor commercial units to let to retail occupiers.

The building will accommodate up to 5,000 employees plus visitors.

There are two basement levels totalling 7,235 sq m and comprising loading bays, 4 disabled parking spaces, refuse storage, plant and utilities.

Camden planners write that Google has been actively involved throughout the design process for the building “wishing to shape the space to suit its ethos of combining work time with leisure time and encouraging active recreation”.

They add: “An important aspiration for the building has been for it to interact with its surroundings and promote movement through and around the building while creating opportunities for views out over the surrounding city.”

It attempts this via a number of innovative features including a ‘promenade’ that progresses its way up from the building’s three large main entrances through the various office floors, connecting cores, workplaces, major shared amenities and a large roof garden.

The promenade would not only encourage free interaction between the building’s occupants but is intended to be visually expressed and appreciated as part of the building’s external architecture.

Integrated within the offices are various ancillary uses including a staff café, multi use games area (MUGA) on the ninth floor, gym and wellness facilities, an audio visual studio, auditorium and events centre and staff training centres.

The roof areas will also contribute to the variety of activities on offer through a combination of amenity terraces, a running track, a swimming pool and two further cafes.

Google is relocating staff from a number of sites in London including at Central St Giles in Camden and its Victoria office in Westminster.

Planners write that the move has been driven by the need for flagship premises connected both to the technology hubs of east London and international air and rail links.

It adds that some but not all staff would be relocated from existing premises and a significant proportion of the 5,000 plus staff would be new jobs.

The lower heights of the development would be to the south and Kings Boulevard side and highest to the north and railway side.

Recommending the plans for approval Camden planners write that Google’s sole occupation of the building has “had a distinct influence on the building form and design which displays a uniqueness of character rarely encountered”.

They add: “Although unashamedly modern, the building relates well to the surrounding heritage townscape. It displays a structural honesty reminiscent of the grand station buildings.

“It also adds many features of interest with elements such as its northern palazzo or southern lantern café that can be appreciated as objects in their own right whilst being part of a greater whole.

“The building also embodies all the usual principles of sustainable design and, indeed would serve as a true exemplar if the additional targeted credits are achieved for BREEAM ‘outstanding’. The building has also been designed to be accessible by all.

“Assessed against the relevant parameters and conditions of the Outline Permission the submission pack meets all the necessary criteria required of Kings Cross Central reserved matters proposals.

“In view of the above it considered that the proposed Zone A building would make a strong positive contribution to the ongoing regeneration of the Kings Cross area and is recommended for approval.”

The development will be built on a tapering plot in the southern part of the Kings Cross Opportunity Area.

It has an approximate length of 300m and area of 1.2ha, and aligns along the entire east side of the new north-south spine road Kings Boulevard with zones B2, B4 and B6 making up the western side.

It extends from Battle Bridge Place in front of Kings Cross Station’s new Western Concourse in the south, to its northern termination on Goods Way where it addresses Regents Canal and Granary Square beyond to the north.

Its eastern side is bounded by Kings Cross Station and the railway lines that lead northwards from it before disappearing under a viaduct beneath Goods Way.

In total, the King's Cross Central Limited Partnership project is delivering over 1,900 homes, 3.4m sq ft net of offices and 500,000 sq ft of shops.

This year will see a range of new developments including the completion of One Pancras Square and Two Pancras Square – two speculative Grade A office buildings with a combined area of circa 200,000 sq ft on Pancras Square, next to King’s Cross Station.

In addition construction will start on the educational, office, cultural, retail and residential spaces for the Aga Khan Development Network.

In 2014 Camden council will move into new offices on Pancras Square and Two Pancras Square will also be completed. BNP Paribas Real Estate will also move into a new office building on Pancras Square, which it is developing.

In January 2013 King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership confirmed £250m funding from four leading banks.

As well as funding three commercial buildings (Western Transit Shed, One and Two Pancras Square) and 272 new homes (in ArtHouse and 1 Canal Reach), it will also be used for the final phases of infrastructure, both south and north of the Regent’s Canal.

This includes work on Cubitt Square, Cubitt Park, Gasholder No. 8, towpath improvements, footbridges over the canal, pavilions on Granary Square, more works on King’s Boulevard and final finishes on Battle Bridge Place.

King’s Cross is being developed by the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, which is a joint venture between London & Continental Railways Limited, DHL Supply Chain and Argent King's Cross Limited Partnership, in conjunction with Hermes Fund Managers.

CBRE is Google’s retained adviser; DTZ and Savills are letting agents at King’s Cross Central on the offices; Lunson Mitchenall advises on retail.


Soucre: Paul Norma, CoStar