In the boom district at London’s King’s Cross station, the architects of Moxon have built a new pedestrian bridge over Regent’s Canal: the Esperance Bridge. The elegant steel structure mediates between tradition and modernity. In doing so, it picks up on a leitmotif of the development project on the former railway site.
Esperance Bridge – in the centre of iconic architecture
The area around London’s King’s Cross station was one of the city’s backyards for many decades, characterised by drug dealing and prostitution. Anyone visiting the area today will find none of that. Instead, a new neighbourhood has emerged on the old railway and industrial sites that attracts locals and tourists alike in droves. The prerequisite for this was extensive urban development work. The two large railway stations that characterise the area, King’s Cross and St Pancras, were extensively renovated and converted into modern transport hubs. Between the two historic station buildings, a new office district was built around the new Pancras Square, where Universal Music and Google, among others, now reside. The internet company is currently building its European headquarters there with BIG and Heatherwick Studio.
The jewel in the crown of the revitalisation of King’s Cross, however, is on the other side of Regent’s Canal, which runs behind the large platform halls. This was the site of King’s Cross Station’s freight yard. Once coal, fish and grain supplies were stored here to be taken by train to the capital. The historic buildings from the early days of the railway era have been repaired and repurposed in recent years. Thomas Heatherwick has given an eye-catching roof design to the shopping centre that once was the Coal Drop Yards. The architectural firm of Stanton Williams converted the Granary Building into the home of the famous Central Saint Martins School of the Arts. And designer Tom Dixon moved into the Fish and Coal Buildings with his studio and a flagship store.
Between the worlds of King’s Cross
The new Esperance Bridge by architects Moxon now completes the pedestrian infrastructure in the King’s Cross district. The bridge creates a new connection from the office district across Regent’s Canal to the former freight yard area. Moxon erected it on the site of a previous bridge built in 1821 to carry coal to the warehouses and into the city. It was demolished in the 1920s.
The Esperance Bridge makes design reference to the industrial heritage of King’s Cross. Yet it is clearly a contemporary structure. The red colour and the use of metal as a material are reminiscent of the early cast iron bridges that started the triumph of the building material. These bridges, above all the “Iron Bridge” over the Severn near Birmingham, marked the beginning of modern engineering and are emblematic of the industrial revolution in Great Britain.
Esperance Bridge: In the tradition of the iron pioneers
Moxon also create a very elegant engineering structure with the Esperance Bridge in King’s Cross. For this, they fall back on the principle of the truss bridge. That was already used by the early cast iron bridges. The architects transfer this construction method into an ingenious design that makes do with only a few different components. This is particularly evident in the bridge’s lattice girders, which also form its railings. They consist of a series of twisted metal angles. Moxon designed the in such a way bridge elements that they can be loaded alternately in compression and tension.
Incidentally, the name of the bridge was chosen by the children of King’s Cross Academy, a nearby school. The pupils wanted the name to be a sign of hope during the Corona pandemic. They were inspired by the Espérence Club. This club was a pioneering social project based in the nearby St Pancras neighbourhood. It was founded by two women’s rights activists, Mary Neal and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. Shortly before the turn of the 20th century, they supported girls who worked as seamstresses.
Interested in other London-related content? In June 2018, the sculpture “The Mastaba” by Christo was visitable in London’s Hyde Park. It was the first large-size installation by the Bulgarian-born artist.