The Knowledge Quarter
facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
Here’s a question. How do you turn a previously unloved and run down part of London into one of its most interesting, vibrant and thriving districts?
It probably helps if you start with a collaboration between the world’s second largest library, and a group of educational institutions including Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion. And a shared desire to connect people, learning and innovation within a small, one mile radius.
The founders of the organisation known as The Knowledge Quarter aren’t property developers, but instead their mission involves engaging in, advancing and disseminating knowledge.
To borrow a line from Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. And if we take “they” to mean some of the worlds foremost businesses, educational institutions and medical research foundations, they have. In their droves.
Of course, Euston and Kings Cross were very different places in the nineties and early 2000s. Back then, about ten thousand clubbers would descend on the area every weekend, to visit Bagley’s and later, The Cross.
Two decades ago the area was probably best described as dingy, derelict and dirty, and as a forty one year old with a fondness for reading and afternoon naps, it’s hard to imagine the appeal. Although, listening to The Cross founder Billy Reilly reminisce, it’s also possible that I missed out.
“In the early days in particular we had the most beautiful people coming to the Cross. I'd be surrounded by gorgeous girls who’d laugh at my bad jokes and tell me how wonderful I was. You've got to remember, one Saturday I had a garage and no one wanted to talk to me, the following week I had a club and everybody wanted to be my friend”
Nowadays, Bagley’s has become the Thomas Heatherwick designed Coal Drops Yard, and The Cross is home to Tom Dixon’s design showroom. And although the offering is a little more refined than it once was, the Kings Cross of 2022 is still home to an amazingly eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and cafes, which sit neatly alongside the offices of Universal Music, Google and Facebook.
And whilst the redevelopment of these former Victorian warehouse buildings is probably the starkest transformation that the area has seen, it’s by no means limited to just here. Tottenham Court Road, flanked by both Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury is also changing, no doubt assisted by the newly opened Elizabeth Line station at one end, and London Euston at the other.
Because where connectivity leads, everything else follows. Since 2001, the area around King’s Cross has seen an investment of over £2.5 billion on transport infrastructure alone.
In fact the decision to move Channel Tunnel Rail Link from Waterloo Station to St Pancras was the catalyst for so much of what’s happened since. Work started in 2001 and just over ten years later, the new international terminus was open, whisking passengers from London to Paris in just over two hours.
The original vision document for the area was titled “Principles for a human city”, which is interesting, as so much of what has been created in the self titled ‘car free oasis’ of Kings Cross and the surrounding areas taps into the ideas of something I’ve written about before, the 15 minute city.
Because as our needs change, the city is evolving. As anyone who saw the news in July can testify, when Saudi Arabia unveiled designs for a futuristic megastructure in the desert.
At 170 km long, 500m high and able to house nine million people, The Line isn’t a new concept, but it is an expensive one, slated to cost a cool £500 billion. And a little like living in your own Marvel movie.
But the idea of cities within cities, where every need is catered for really does fit into our ever evolving lifestyles.
And the Knowledge Quarter is giving us just that. Places to live, learn, work, eat and shop, and all within walking distance of each other. A neighbourhood which is easy to get to and from, no matter where in London, the UK or continental Europe you are
“There are few districts in any city across the world that can boast the sheer range and quality of knowledge organisations that can be found within the one-mile radius of King’s Cross Station. From centuries-old institutions such as the British Museum and Sadler’s Wells, to relatively recent arrivals like the Francis Crick Institute and Google, the area has that rare kind of vitality that comes from the daily collision of diverse ideas, people and perspectives”
Those of you who have read one of my area focuses before are rightly expecting a sales pitch right about now.
And there was one coming, but the apartment I’d intended for this piece is now under offer.
The buyer? An academic, of course.
I was interviewed by The Guardian about my Cadogan Place listing, and you can read the article here.
Without giving too much away, the below excerpt from the article really encapsulates how I feel that all estate agents should operate.
Always offer people ice cream. Everyone loves ice cream.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. And a dessert soiled floor is never a good place to start.
"I’m greeted at the triple-locked front door by Simon Deen, the estate agent tasked with finding a buyer for the Grade II-listed 19th-century house. Six floors rise from the basement in a layer cake of gleaming stucco.
Deen offers me a Mini Magnum from an enormous freezer a few days after the marketing launch. It had been a hot evening, and the ice-creams had felt like a nice touch.
As we leave, and lock the door behind us before the next viewing, he rushes to wipe up a drip of ice-cream that has fallen on to an immaculate slab of marble flooring"
Things I’ve been inspired by this week
It might have been written in 1984, but there’s some great stuff in this book.