The Tapestry building is located on the western edge of the new development at King’s Cross. It sits just north of the Regent’s Canal and sets up a long terrace of buildings towards York Way. Its western façade overlooks the railway tracks, making it highly visible from fast moving trains going in and out of St Pancras. In the east it faces the Plimsoll Building which holds apartments as well as a primary school, playground and nursery across Canal Reach and addresses a large public space with the open frame of Gas Holder No 8.
The building is 9 storeys in height to the southern section, rising to 14 storeys to the north, accommodating the St Paul’s viewing corridor from Parliament Hill. It sets up a long range, bounding the railway all the way to York Way. At ground level the building’s program contains an energy centre, a multi-use games area, a retail café / restaurant unit and the entrances to residential cores. A multi-storey car park facing the rail track is located above the energy centre. Open market and affordable apartments with generous balconies are arranged on the upper levels and around the perimeter of the building plan, taking advantage of sunlight and extraordinary views. A garden square at 7th floor level provides access into 2 and 3-storey town houses.
The facades are conceived as an architectural framework, unifying the many uses and allowing for subtle variations to respond to the rich context. They are given a sculptural quality through the articulation of deep vertical piers with horizontal elements, such as balconies and bay windows, spanning in between.
The building is dressed in a tapestry of ornament that is adjusted across the building to create a hierarchy of pattern types. The terracotta red cladding is made from lightweight glass reinforced concrete panels to reduce the imposed load of the building onto the Thameslink tunnels below. The inscription on each element is designed to tell us something about the role that part plays in the whole system of structure and enclosure.
The ornamentation to the wall panels is based on an Assyrian Stone Carpet, a carved threshold representing a woven carpet that was used in doorways of Assyrian palaces. It was brought to the UK by Layard in 1843 and was then used by Semper to embody his idea of Stoffwechsel or material change. Semper argues that the idea of spatial enclosure relates to an underlying motif of weaving and that all enclosing walls bear a memory of woven enclosure.
The decoration to the loadbearing piers can be traced back to Egyptian ornament. It remembers the Papyrus plant and its development as it grows from earth and water at the base, to the binding of the stalks in the mid-section and the blossoming at the head by the double-height attic. The vigorous growth of the plant is a figurative embodiment of structural strength.
The balconies embody the idea of bedecking the building with hanging tapestries or rugs, as residents of St. Mark’s Square in Venice used to do during great festivals. They communicate the idea of basketwork. Inspiration was taken from the work of the sculptor Erwin Hauer in the 1960’s.