Camley Street

London. 2014

  • Project Details
  • Completion: 2014
  • Clients: Urbanest

With its ground floor permeability and sky-level forms, Camley Street improves the physical and visual connectivity between Camley Street to Regent’s Canal, and between King’s Cross to Camden Town. Three brick volumes rise up to mark the site’s southerly apex. Breaks between the volumes capture connected courtyards on the ground floor. The architectural language has developed in such a way that ‘peeling back’ the brickwork at the corners of the envelope reduces the appearance of mass and adds relief and detail. The brick skin reveals a contrasting palette of glazing and metal cladding to articulate the different spaces within the building. The ‘city sandwich’ scheme offers a rare mix of 320 rooms of student accommodation, 40 residential dwellings, incubator office space, retail units and a café.


Civic Trust Award (Regional finalist) 2016 New London Award: Workplace Commendation 2015


The mixed-use project will accommodate 320 students across a variety of 84 units, typically in large clusters, 40 residential dwellings – in a mix of 2, 3 and 4 bed arrangements – incubator office space for local young entrepreneurs, retail opportunities and a café. It is composed of three brick volumes that step down to meet residential neighbours to the north and rise up at the site’s southerly apex to act as a gateway. Breaks between the volumes capture courtyards on the ground floor and allow visual and physical permeability from Camley Street down to the canal’s towpath to improve the connection between King’s Cross and Camden Town.

Client’s Brief

Camley Street’s client is urbanest, a specialist international student housing provider that constructs, lets and manages high-specification halls of residence for students in Central London locations. The brief was to create a protective, sustainable student haven that fully harnesses the site’s surrounding natural attributes in terms of waterside amenity, vantage point and close proximity to key centres of academic and social activity. Urbanest is seeking to deliver a next generation student housing project that will appeal to a broad spectrum of university and individual occupiers in terms of affordability and flexibility.

Responding to its surroundings

Camley Street responds to its setting by reanimating both the street and canal. Located immediately to the north-west and north of King’s Cross and St Pancras Stations, the site’s surroundings comprise a mixture of residential streets and light industrial uses. The location offered an architectural opportunity to mark the ‘entrance’ to both Camley Street and its wider hinterland context. Placing the scheme’s tallest volume at the site’s southerly apex creates not only a sense of arrival but announces the improved towpath access below.


The building’s stepped massing responds simultaneously to the smaller scale of residential buildings to the north and the larger scale of development in the King’s Cross Central Development to the south. Its tiered envelope breaks the massing down into smaller legible planes; the series of interlocking blocks set ‘to and fro’ from each other creating rhythm and human scale along the street edge. The minimised footprint of the development maximises amenity space, resulting in more than half of the site being dedicated to open spaces in the form of courtyards, boundary edges and the newly landscaped access steps to the south. Additionally, the fingers of the ‘E’ shaped footprint amount to only 50% of the linear length of the canal wall, enabling a series of new spaces at a range of levels to exist behind the canal wall instead of a flat continuous screen of accommodation as found nearby.


The incubator office spaces are located at towpath level to capitalise on the proximity to passing pedestrian traffic. Wrapping these office spaces around their own collective courtyard ensures they receive good levels of natural daylight and natural ventilation. The retail unit – located at the base of the tallest volume at the site’s apex – animates the frontage and has a direct relationship with the new steps that connect Camley Street to the canal. Meanwhile, residential accommodation has been maximised on the south-west portion of the site to take advantage of canal views.

External appearance

Brick is the principal material which, given the heritage of the site and the canal, was deemed contextually appropriate. The architectural language has developed in such a way that ‘peeling back’ the brickwork at the corners of the envelope reduces the appearance of mass and adds visual interest. The brick skin reveals a contrasting palette of glazing and metal cladding to articulate the different spaces within the building. At street level, the language of ‘peeling back’ brick continues; the brick skin folds back to mark entrances and line the reveals of corner balconies.

Internal spaces

The building is divided into three parts, each accessed from its own core. The market housing core is set back from the Camley Street façade to allow a generous depth to rooms and a functional zone with entrance corridor, storage and bathroom. Market and student flats are wrapped around these cores and, where possible, benefit from a dual aspect. Balconies are punched into the plan as recessed volumes, bringing light deeper into the rooms within. Both balconies and bathrooms are stacked vertically throughout the building, allowing for the simple distribution of drainage and services, as well as flexibility in the structural system. The flats are all in excess of LBC and GLA minimum standards and are designed to meet Lifetime Home Standards.

Visual and physical permeability

The development makes significant improvements to the perception of Camley Street, promoting active frontages and permeability – both visual and physical – along its length. Entrances to each of the uses are glazed and generously sized to reveal the daily activities within and promote passive surveillance.

A sustainable, car-free development

- The student accommodation comfortably achieved a BREEAM pre-assessment rating of Very Good with aspirations to increase to Excellent.

- The Incubator achieved a BREEAM pre-assessment rating of Very Good with further improvements expected.

- The residential component of the scheme will achieve Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4, meeting and exceeding minimum voluntary standards for energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, water use, waste, materials and surface water run-off. A code rating certificate will be included within each dwellings Home Information Pack.

- The scheme enhances the biodiversity of the canal wall

- The site is located in an area of high public transport accessibility. For this reason, there are no car parking spaces provided for students, staff or visitors, in keeping with the London Borough of Camden’s policy.

The Incubator – A new concept in enterprise for Camden

Camden Town Unlimited or CTU is the Business Improvement District for Camden Town. Camden Town has had a reputation for innovative thinking over a number of decades and presently has a considerable concentration of media businesses many internationally renowned. More recently however the London Borough of Camden has lost out as a place for start-ups and younger enterprises to other areas of London such as Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and Southwark.

To help create and retain enterprise and the younger knowledge base within the Borough, CTU has created the Collective at the southern end of Camden High Street. The Collective is a continuation of CTU’s pop-up initiatives which saw the first pop-up shops in London during this recession. The Collective currently provides around 200 square metres of basic open plan office accommodation in a formerly derelict building lent to CTU by the property owners for up to two years. It is anticipated that the Collective will close in 2013 when the property housing the existing facility is to be developed.

The Incubator will take the initiative created by the Collective and expand this many times over at 103 Camley Street, to provide enterprise start-up accommodation for potentially upwards of 250 new businesses and graduate students at any one time in the form of individual start-up enterprises and small business clusters. This will be an exemplar for young and enterprising businesses and a model to be potentially replicated elsewhere in London. By the creation of these unique facilities it will be possible to retain the highly skilled, highly educated graduate students and start-up enterprises within the Borough.

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