Opening a new chapter in the history of the urban


As we reimagine our material and social infrastructure post-pandemic we could learn from cities that have been through worse, argues Clare Melhuish

Working full-time from home once again, as the government and its agencies struggle to get the covid pandemic under control, and the UK’s hospital crisis escalates each day, I’ve positioned my monitor carefully to try to block the view of a gargantuan new building which finally materialised on the near horizon just before the first lockdown.

Ever since, except over Christmas, it has filled the night sky with a blinding grid of illumination which signifies 415,000sq ft of empty office space at London’s King’s Cross, originally due to be occupied by Facebook by the end of 2021.

Canal Reach, perhaps better referred to as Chill Lane, the name of the route alongside the railway lines which this façade fronts on to, is a chilling reminder of both the negative visual and spatial impacts of new construction on, to quote Richard Sennett, “disorderly” inner London areas, and the devastating economic impacts of the pandemic which fundamentally throw into question the rationale of such vast containers for office workers in the future.

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