Just behind King’s Cross station can be found a large scale model showing off most of central London. Previously found at the Building Centre, the model has moved to King’s Cross, into a larger building and gained the addition of a chunk of northwest London including Wembley stadium.
It’s as much a thing to look at and point at for the public, as a sales and explanatory tool for architects and urban planners.
Commissioned by New London Architecture (NLA), who also own the model at the City Centre, it has expanded several times over the years to take in the developments that are popping up around London. Once just the central section and docklands, it now includes areas such as Nine Elms, the Royal Docks, Stratford, and they’ve just added the Wembley area.
Even in modern times of 3D computer renders, architects still build models as there’s just something extra that a physical representation delivers that a computer screen just can’t quite yet. And of course, as much as the model is of use to the industry, there are few people in general who are not fascinated by the huge 3D-map of London.
Just as you can’t put a Rowntree fruit pastille in your mouth without chewing it, you simply can’t look at the London model without needing to point at places on it.
The model used to be based at the Building Centre in Tottenham Court Road, but they’ve decided to become a roaming display moving around London to show it off. Candidly, the Building Centre, while ideal as a venue for events, always felt slightly offputting to passers-by, whereas the current site, in an empty shop at the Coal Drops Yard is designed to lure people in.
On my visit, even before it formally opened to the public, two large open doors and big windows were luring passers-by inside, and I noticed that there were at times more people inside looking at the model than outside shopping.
The exhibition space is also showing off the other work of the NLA at the moment, a report into what makes London a desirable city, and more down to scale, an exhibition about home improvements.
Not so much Changing Rooms, and more award-winning architectural innovations in domestic homes. A chance often for younger architects to show off what they can do on a smaller scale, but I would argue that as this is where people live, the effects can often be more life-changing than a fancy office block.
The exhibition shows off the 2021 winners of the annual home improvement competition, and the NLA run regular open days for prospective home improvers to meet architects under their Don’t Move, Improve brand.
Undeniably though, it’s the model that lures people inside. It’s rather irresistible.
The NLA’s temporary residence at the Coal Drop Yards will be open until late September before moving to its next home. It’s free to go inside, and there’s a small cafe there as well.