Inside new arts and music venue Kings Place

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Beneath Kings Place, a shiny new office block in King's Cross, lurks London's boldest crossover arts venture: a dual venue for exhibitions and classical music. But can sound and vision coexist in perfect harmony? Time Out finds out

  • Inside new arts and music venue Kings Place

    The concert hall

  • See what's on at Kings Place

    The gallery space

    York Way has long been a grim thoroughfare. Eight years ago, people thought property developer Peter Millican was mad to buy this plot of land and probably wondered what he was doing digging down 18 metres for his foundations. The smart, undulating façade that has risen up from this clay bed certainly looks like corporate architecture, despite its cheery wave, but it hides a basement of music rooms and galleries.The elegant stone-floor spaces leading down to the sub-office real estate are punctuated by a Dixon Jones trademark escalator (they were also the architects behind the National Portrait Gallery and the similarly stone-clad Royal Opera House extensions), but the mezzanine galleries are just balcony walkways. The one large exhibition room is dark and disappointing. The ground floor will have a commercial sculpture gallery run by Pangolin from Stroud and a few bronze and stone pieces on the terrace, but this will not pose any contest for London’s other visual-art venues.

    Millican realises that the office block is usually an ‘unfriendly building type’, but he thinks his will ingratiate itself with the public and ‘make a major contribution to cultural life’. Perhaps, but artistically it will be down to the music if Kings Place is to make an impact. Also, since the development of the rest of King’s Cross is no longer a running joke but has become a never-ending saga, I think it might take another four or five years before real cultural life blossoms in this part of London.

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    The concert halls

    One suspects that Peter Millican has invested in this colossal project just in order to indulge himself in classical music, given that he is to move out of developing and devote himself to overseeing the artistic direction of this brand new two-concert-hall space. ‘I think you’ve hit the nail on the head,’ agrees architect Jeremy Dixon (who co-designed the building with partner Edward Jones). Millican is evasive, admitting that ‘one should live life to enjoy’. Both are musicians and, sitting in the larger 400-seat concert hall with them, it’s clear that this room in particular has been a labour of love.The 600-ton hall is impressive. It is hung from (and sits on) rubber pads and is absolutely quiet, despite the proximity of York Way. What do musicians of the two soon-to-be resident orchestras (the London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) think? Mark van de Wiel is principal clarinettist of the Sinfonietta. ‘I’ve played there three times and the sound is terrific,’ he enthuses. ‘After two or three minutes, I was convinced; it is rare to find a hall with a clarity of sound like that which is also warm. I don’t think I’ve been in a chamber-music hall where the acoustic could be changed so radically and so quickly,’ he adds, referring to the system of curtains that can be drawn around the room to reduce reverberation.Something unusual about the programming of concerts at Kings Place is that Millican has asked the curators to provide a mini-series of four concerts each week (Wednesday to Saturday), which they can choose to embellish with the inbuilt facilities to show films. The venue opens on October 1 with 100 concerts in five days, and with King’s Cross station nearby, a few hundred café and restaurant seats and free art to amuse concert-goers during intervals, this promises to be an exciting addition to London’s classical music scene.

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Rebecca miller
Rebecca miller

I have recetly visited kings place, and thourghly enjoyed it. The beautiful foyer is modern and breathtaking, as you take in the high celings and the basment full of striking artwork. I also went to the retaurant at Kings Place, Rotunda which was also delightful. Even though people may have thought he was mad to buy the plot, I think was well worth while in the end.