topline: staggering out of CSM to do an espresso-fuelled tactical sick, which is subsequently frozen during a sharp frost, + then published on dezeen as a legitimate piece of architecture. that’s coal drops yard.
coal drops yard is an abomination among abominations. if this were pre-enlightenment Europe it is entirely possible that the building—in its entirety—would have been consigned to an oubliette for all of time. but, because this is the era of late capitalism and, because all areas of London not rendered into pure, unfiltered dogshit are in a way suspect, even to me, it has been allowed to exist. and exist it does.
in fact i’m glad coal drops yard exists. if only to confirm my theory that we have entered a hideous cthonic afterlife. a cthonic afterlife in which we’re forced to shelter ourselves in this living hellscape by making ungodly structures out of whatever remains—human offal, dog viscera, &etc—we can scavenge from those small, shin-height bins you find in suburban bathrooms.
coal drops yard is what would happen if you staggered out of csm after a particularly sordid degree show and took an espresso-fuelled tactical vomit on an old industrial shed.
when i first visited CDY i hadn’t assigned it to any personal or subjective map of london. i had no idea it occupied this particular space until, still recovering from a particularly greasy hangover, i saw a sign which pointed at it, a 7 minute walk away. obviously i walked 7 minutes, because i don’t know what’s good for me.*
there is no obvious path to ‘get at’ CDY. you just sort of arrive there,** either because you’ve spotted it while leaving CSM (the students of which are, for the most part, not the target clientele of CDY. which is odd, if you think about it), or because you’ve been kicked out of the queue for Dishoom because you got too shitfaced. there is a flight of chunky wooden steps. the steps were occupied by debased looking shoppers gripping paper bags. once inside you slither through a strange corridor and subsequently arrive on a sort of curving, raised walkway which reveals the central architectural flourish of CDY - that is, the dead-seal coloured pair of unnecessary roof extensions which have been flopped down over the public space and the buildings beneath it. they meet, suspended, in the air. ‘kissing.’ it is excessively underwhelming and really, really un-beautiful.
i’ve never been swallowed by a crab, spider, Etc. Never been groped by a bus-sized mandible and fed, in a single proficient lunge, into the mouth (mouth?) of a crab or a spider; sharp bristles and bits of corpse-smelling shell and old bit of fly and shrimp sticking to my shoes and hands and collarbone. fed into what passes for its mouth and then digested, painfully, over a course of agonising minutes.
i’ve never done any of that.
and yet, walking toward the central WHATEVER it is simulates—again, i’m guessing here—the experience of being fed painfully into the mouth of a gigantic land crab.
branches of aesop, paul smith, tracey neul—and the shudderingly banal smear of ‘good’ money that coats every surface—justify Rowan Moore’s defeated-sounding sigh when he observed that King’s Cross had—at last—become “a frankly posh place.” trinkets; candles that smell like forests that no longer exist, and fjords, which do not smell of anything; ‘exciting’ (that is, really shit) visual merchandising (trainers suspended from an all-brick ceiling by their laces); and clothes which can only really be bought on credit. i don’t believe London’s ultra-riche know exactly where King’s Cross is, which i find funny and sad at the same time. this was all for fucking nothing, wasn’t it?
yesterday’s announcement of the Neave Brown award for social housing revealed what Catherine Slessor called “muted palettes of brick” and a “middle-brow” design approach. the shortlist is comprised of polite, largely uncontroversial and unexciting buildings, all executed in the same shade of beige. the sort of colour you’d get by mincing two (2) oreos together with a lot of heavy cream. not bad; and not good, either. under the venereal climate of the New London Vernacular, the ‘rationalism’ of clean, big blocks with unoriginal flying buttresses put on their heads has become the fate of (almost) every new development in london over the past 6 or 7 years. CDY is the nadir of that aesthetic, albeit given a ‘fun’ twist by the architect as if to prove that they are different from the other boys. it is the High Church of NLV; protestantism with smoke and bells. as such, we should have absolutely no reason to feel kindly or well disposed toward it. but, unlike these, it manages to be a lot more shit. not least because a perfectly straightforward refurbishment of the site would have been absolutely ok. it’s another case where too much architecture has been bad for the architecture.
another point to raise is that CDY looks like a big tesco built between 1997 and 2001. Look.
the vernacular architecture of shopping centres, malls, extra-urban park and ride facilities—all of it—is strangely beautiful to me. and yet, under the clumsy direction of thomas heatherwick, CDY has managed to be really bad without any of the adorable, uplifting irony. and without an isle for biscuits. it does have a store called ‘house of cans’ which sells, you guessed it, craft beer. this, to me, is hideous and unlovely.
so is there any good to be extracted from CDY? yes. if has a decent-sized COS, if you cba to go to covent garden to buy a shirt made out of volcanized rubber.
preferred demolition technique: literally just kick it until it’s reduced to a fine powder. and then convert it into a tesco extra.
*but you do get to walk past this very lovely Chipperfield building, which is a strange sort of consolation.
**there could be a ‘proper’ entrance that i’ve missed. i honestly don’t care if there is.
N.b., i had promised myself that, for the first post, i wouldn’t choose something negative to write about. in this i have clearly failed. the second review will be positively upbeat.