British designer Tom Dixon Studio recently opened its new HQ and Flagship showroom- ‘ The Coal Office ‘ in the Coal Distribution Yard redevelopment in King’s Cross, London
Originally called the Fish and Coal Offices, the first structure was built in 1851 to provide space for clerical workers who monitored the flow of the two commodities, while the Wharf Road arches below were stables for the Goods Yard’s horses.
Tom Dixon has relocated his head office, showroom and retail space from Ladbroke Grove ( West London ) further along the Regents Canal, to the new 1,600 sqm complex on Regent’s Canal and Granary Square, with the vision that it will become a creative hub for the broader design community.
” For us it was imperative not just to find a new office or shop. It was vital to find a new home, London isn’t just another city. It is where it all started.
We will use these 17,500 square feet in this incredible location as a platform to broadcast our latest ideas in interior design, product innovation and experiments in food, functionality and future living.” ………………… Tom Dixon
The Victorian buildings contain offices for the brand’s staff and a gallery, while the flagship store and showroom is located in seven railway arches beneath them.
Through stimulating collaborations with names big and small, Tom Dixon will curate an evolving holistic experience designed to push the boundaries of contemporary retail as we know it.
The Coal Office will serve as the ultimate centre for Interiors, a journey through outstanding details from beginning to end
The Coal Office, located on Granary Square, in King’s Cross is part of a new urban creative and technological network and falls within the sphere of the redevelopments in the area around the major transport hub in the north of London – next to both the Kings Cross and the EuroStar Train Stations
The Central Saint Martins Art College opened its doors in a granary renovated by Stanton Williams in 2011, while an extension to the station designed by John McAslan + Partners opened in 2012
Tom Dixon’s new HQ will contribute to an ever-expanding network of creatives and technologists from the likes of LVMH, Google, Facebook and Spiritland.
David Morley Architects carefully focused interventions have enhanced and retained the building’s strong historical character; an intriguing example of robust, Victorian industrial architecture.
Inherently sustainable, the design concept for the refurbishment project has been to retain the buildings’ strong historical character by applying a light touch to the majority of the existing fabric, whilst making some carefully focussed interventions which have greatly transformed the way the buildings can be re-used.
Tom Dixon’s Interior design studio ( Design Research Studio) took over the project to design the interiors.
” The infrastructure was in place when we got the building, but it had been lying fallow for a couple of years. We’re finishing it and making it make sense ” ………………. Tom Dixon.
The Coal Office now also serves as a new gateway to an elevated walkway leading to the retail emporium of Coal Drops Yard, the Gasholders and The Plimsoll Building, creating a sense of enclosure and a ‘creative centre’ for Tom Dixon at Granary Square.
The previously dark interior is now flooded with daylight by opening up and extending previously blocked in windows, installing new shop front glazing and inserting a new roof-light and light well in the office space.
Against an industrial backdrop the Coal Office is set to lead the way as a multi-disciplinary platform for innovation in design.
The Coal Office will function as a live studio combining shop, workshop and office all under one roof, with the culinary delights of a brand-new restaurant and roof terrace
Assaf Granit, chef and co-owner of The Palomar and The Barbary, is joining forces with iconic London designer Tom Dixon to open Coal Office, a new “Mediterranean/Middle Eastern-inspired” restaurant overlooking King’s Cross’ Granary Square
Job advertisements for positions at the new restaurant, which is expected to open in July 2018, describe a “new exciting culinary experience”, with seating for 160 guests split over three floors, inclusive of a rooftop terrace and al fresco dining area with “360-degree views over Granary Square”.
The new Tom Dixon flagship shop / showroom ( where you can expect to see Tom Dixon’s latest furniture and lighting releases ) can be found beneath the studio and office space.
A series of large archways ( beneath Bagley Walk ) split the space, allowing each sensory element to shine individually whilst harmoniously flowing into one another through the continued details of exposed brickwork and large-scale hardwood floors.
Each individual archway and the sensory visions of light, colour, tactility and scent within it, are all carefully considered in the new premises which notably isn’t named after the Tom Dixon brand itself; a conscious decision to allow each element to breathe with room for creative collaborations from younger craft studios and complementary businesses; hand-selected for cohabitation by Tom Dixon personally.
In other arches are the company’s kitchen and dining area, a co-working space and a preparation room for the restaurant. Each space showcases a different aspect of the business
The entry to the new studio space sets the scene for the visitors overall experience
Exposed brick walls accompanied by pale and coal-black wooden parquet flooring and a variety of contrasting materials provide the perfect industrial backdrop for Dixon’s striking metallic light fixtures and contemporary furniture designs.
The fit-out by Tom Dixon’s own Design Research Studio uses different types of flooring. Dinesen wood floors have been added to accompany the exposed brick and original Victorian features, creating a space that is set up to allow for the Tom Dixon product to flourish.
Dinesen timber floors have been laid in three of the shop’s arches, including 15 metre, 450mm wide planks of Douglas Fir that run depth of one arch.
The Furniture Store
The Furniture store features Dixon classics such as the S Chair, Pylon Chair and Bird Chaise – their graphic, pop-art silhouettes re-engineered and re-coloured, next to the softer shapes of the newer Wingback and Scoop chairs.
Then there’s a haberdashery, filled with swatches of luxurious fabrics to inspire upholstery customisation on those signature chairs and other future-retro furniture items scattered tastefully across the one-time hallowed dance floors
The store also houses a haberdashery – a foray into weaving, sewing and embellishing with a focus on extreme textures,
The Lighting Department
The Lighting shop showcases the brand’s latest adventures in optics and reflectivity,
Large-scale touchscreen order points and walls of swatches make the space feel more shoppable and less exhibit like, and found objects positioned throughout help to put the product in more of a lifestyle context.
The perfumery features scents and is certainly an upgrade to the heady aromas down here back in the days before the smoking ban, or indeed when horses shacked up for a night’s kip.
a perfumery, “a steamy space full of fragrance and flavour”
The ” Coal Office ” Gift Store
You’ll find smaller desirable objects in the gift shop
while the gift shop stocks a selection of extraordinary objects for drinking and dining, perfectly packaged and ready for gifting.
The Factory has been conceived to encourage the public to participate in the joys of construction, fabrication and assembly.
Over the next few months, it will be set up and then reconfigured variously as a pickling and bottling plant, a ceramics workshop and an electronics assembly line.
It will kick off in the first couple of months with geometric pendant lighting (‘Make Your Own Etch Dot Pendant’ Workshop, with a limited batch of just 600 pendant lights produced solely at the Factory).
The brand has been characterised from its earliest beginnings by a fascination for manufacturing with investigations into craft and heavy industry and experiments in precision digitalised machinery.
The Factory, invites the public down into the coal arches to participate in acts of craft and manufacturing.
“Now that we have moved into our new HQ at Kings Cross, we felt an urgent desire to start making stuff again ourselves.
We have dedicated a space – The Factory – where ideas can be tested out and prototypes created.
The Factory is not hidden deep in the recesses of the building but is prominent at the entrance to our shop. ” ………………………. Tom Dixon
The Trade Showrooms
Its Trade Counter occupies a sequence of rooms at entrance level from Bagley Walk, a new elevated park that runs from Granary Square to Gasholder Park.
Sphere8 resin floors made from plant-oil polymer and incorporating ground-up recycled bottles as a filler can be seen in Trade Counter, shop and workshop areas
Stairs to the Commercial spaces upstairs
A fire in 1983 had left the buildings in a derelict state and the concept for their refurbishment has retained their historical character with a light touch to most of the existing fabric.
Previously blocked-in windows have been opened up and extended, new shop front glazing installed and a new roof light and light well inserted in the office space.
The Reception Area
Upstairs, alongside the nerve centre of Tom’s increasingly global operation, sit design studios, and a materials and textiles hub.
Despite Fish and Coal being a rather narrow building, there are many areas for product development, and collaborators can book in sessions to work on ideas with the Studio team and Tom himself, who will be very hands-on, as ever, in the new space.
The buildings follow the curve of the canal and all meeting rooms overlook the canal towards Camley Street Natural Park, a nature reserve in the urban environment.
Walls are exposed brick, sometimes displaying cement repair, and including socket holes where floor joists once fitted.
Soffit-mounted services are also left visible, wrapped in their foil-faced insulation
Tom Dixon and DRS Office work spaces
Tom Dixon personal tour of his new London HQ – ” The Coal Office ”
” It was time to try something new, but it was difficult to find somewhere that allows us to have the right mix of professional and retail – King’s Cross gives us that.
Connectivity was also the other factor [for the move]. From King’s Cross you can get to the rest of the UK, straight to Edinburgh, Newcastle or Margate, and in the other direction Europe, I say that a brand is only as good as its network, whether it is on Instagram or with its premises.” ……………… Tom Dixon
” We are just as interested in the digital world, but we have found that the digital works better in combination with a physical location.
“ It was time to try something new. I see the building as being at the beginning of an adventure rather than a fait accompli. I see the building evolving very quickly.
I want to open up the building more, to open up our design, prototyping and interiors processes ” …………………….. Tom Dixon
As a step towards this, alongside offices, the space has a shop, restaurant and workshop.
The latter is key because it means Mr Dixon can start manufacturing in the heart of London again, something the brand has not been able to do since its early days.
This integrated approach shows that new office spaces can be transformative for a brand and business, as well as the day-to-day operations of a company.
In celebration of the unique history of the building, which dates back to 1851, edible installations celebrating the power of coal by food concept studio Arabeschi di Latte were served on the day, along with new product presentations and a tour by the designer himself.
Within the entrance to the studio, a clay baking masterclass takes place, with clay being moulded into plates and stamped before being sent to Central Saint Martins for firing and glazing – likely to be used in the upcoming Coal Office restaurant on Bagely Walk
There were also clay baked apples served up by Arabeschi de Latte.
” Coal Office will aim to go beyond a typical restaurant offering, creating a space where diners “can experience fresh, creative food in a variety of beautifully designed and atmospheric spaces, where the provenance is explained, the tableware is available to buy and the recipes are shared.” ………………………….. Tom Dixon
“ We need a great place for our people to work, and go beyond design. I’m very interested in how food fits with design and I want a place to start manufacturing things again, like I did when I started.” ……………. Tom Dixon
The Kings Cross Coal Yards and The Coal Office History
Back in 1851, along the curvaceous bank of Regent’s Canal, a sizeable administrative and storage facility was built to manage incoming supplies of two of London’s most important commodities – Fish and Coal.
The Fish and Coal Buildings were part of master builder Lewis Cubitt’s design for King’s Cross Goods Yard, a bustling hub of commerce, where narrow boats, locomotives and horse-drawn carts all met.
Clerks toiled away upstairs while the arches beneath were stables for the working horses.
The Fish and Coal offices form an intriguing example of robust, Victorian industrial architecture.and hold a prominent location in the heritage heart of King’s Cross, following the sweep of Regent’s Canal at the south west corner of Granary Square.
Over decades, the once thriving Victorian industrial use of the site waned, the country got on with rebuilding after World War II, and these warehouses became part of central London’s most notorious underused wasteland.
Prostitutes, vagrants and associates roamed the crumbling landscape, occasionally torching things.
Somewhat inevitably, the Fish and Coal building went up in flames in 1983
In the nineties they were converted into one of the largest nightclubs in London, Bagley’s, providing a space and ambiance within the coal buildings for 90’s ravers to party all night long at the height of the dance music explosion.
In 1993, its forgotten Arches opened up as a ‘wine bar’ for pre-club revellers heading to the increasing number of raves being thrown in the vast coal drop building opposite, then known by the name of former tenants, the glass bottle manufacturer Bagley’s.
Nightlife institution The Cross was born, becoming a globally recognised venue in its own right.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000’s, Goods Yard was again teeming with life – or nightlife, to be exact – as the UK’s club culture rightly became the envy of the world.
The music and madness finally stopped at the end of 2007, when the long-stalled redevelopment of the entire area finally began.
Despite displacing all the ravers, the Fish and Coal complex stood empty for another decade while the phased development of first the Granary building opposite (becoming the home of UAL Central St Martins College), then the iconic gasholders (into upmarket flats) took place all around.
The Coal Office curves alongside the Regent’s Canal near the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Coal Drops Yard shopping centre, which is slated for completion in October 2018.
The plan was for chef Jamie Oliver’s group to move their various operations to the site, complete with in-house cookery school and restaurant with terrace overlooking the canal. However Jamie’s recent turbulent business misadventures prevented that particular dream.
Fortunately, an even more exciting prospect is now reaching fruition, as Tom Dixon Studio opens, thereby writing the latest chapter in the Fish and Coal Buildings history.