Urban Regeneration in King’s Cross

An Outsider’s View of Urban Regeneration in King’s Cross

I have been making the journey to London from Lincoln to stay with my friend for several years now and will return when circumstances allow. The direct LNER service terminates at King’s Cross so it seemed an ideal place to begin my degree photography project on urban regeneration. Urban regeneration in my home city is very slow and staid in design.

I began my project by participating in an Open City Tour led by Maggie Baddeley during which I learnt about the development and also found out where to go so I knew where to return later. Before retirement, I worked in retail banking and then in the school buildings’ section of the County Council, learning that there are two sides to a regenerated development, one the developer’s vision and the other the reality for people who live there.

So I feel, when visiting, like an outsider looking in, not a tourist or someone just passing through. This was evident when I took the picture which has become the focal image for my exhibition – the dry risers outside 5 St Pancras. People have told me they look like hidden faces. I do wonder though why the sign which says north is below the one that says south. What have I found whilst exploring? That even if I wanted to live in the Gasholder complex and wake up to London I can only dream. A 2-bed semi with a garden in Lincoln is £150,000. The hoardings depict the perfect evening view but when I climbed the Water Tower to take this photograph it was pouring with rain.

I glimpsed the Gasholder roof garden whilst on an Aga Khan building tour which left me wondering how it feels to have visitors like me wandering through your workplace regularly. I am the visitor who wants to explore what is behind the closed doors and in the private spaces. I enjoy Open House Weekends for this reason and have explored the Francis Crick Institute’s building and toured backstairs in the apartments in St Pancras Chambers. The great big arrow, once pointing the way to the Gents, then reimagined in pink tries to direct me to visit Coal Drops Yard, where the lifts were closed for maintenance, and not all the units were occupied. Once there, I noticed the seats appear to be made of coal with indents to sit on, linking to the area’s heritage.

Last September I saw how well the flower beds made of corten steel have matured, their shapes controlling the way you move around the development. I just thought how do you look after the trees in them? The team of gardeners must stay busy keeping the green spaces looking good. I have noticed the changes as the development nears completion and how different it now feels from the transient space I first began photographing in 2018. For me, King’s Cross has now transformed into a place, rather than a redeveloped space.

I am looking forward to coming back when the situation is more stable, the LNER trains are back in full service and Network Rail’s engineering works allow for easy travel. It will be good to see what has changed, the different shops which have opened, the market stalls and the Skip Garden. My friends will still ask me questions and ask me for pointers so they can visit the same areas and form their own opinions.

There is still time to view my virtual exhibition London’s Hottest Postcode N1C (online until 30 November at https://tinyurl.com/Virtual-exhibition). I am hoping to find a new gallery space sometime in the future to show the prints I made just before lockdown. For further information, you can contact me via my website https://www.hazelbinghamphotography.com or email hazelbinghamphotographygmail.com.

All images copyrighted to Hazel Bingham.