Writing this on one of the longest (and hottest) days of the year, I can finally say that summer is upon us.
The long, dark winter took a toll on all of us and it is a delight to see people back out and enjoying themselves safely. By our offices in King’s Cross, the children are back running through the fountains and students and visitors are sunbathing by the canal – simple pleasures we all took for granted pre-Covid.
Over the past year, being outside has taken on a whole new meaning. We’ve embraced the great outdoors, even if it’s just a local park, and in doing so the places beyond our homes have become embedded with new value and significance. As a creator and manager of one of London’s greatest and newest estates, this year has put into perspective the importance of public spaces. They are the backdrop for people’s experiences; places to meet friends and family, eat, drink and simply spend time.
Our industry has a quite understandable obsession with footfall numbers and visitor statistics. Data is king, especially in times of uncertainty, and we have been heartened to see King’s Cross bounce back quickly from the same period in 2019 and Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross significantly outperform pre-pandemic footfall numbers. But a strong focus on figures means we often overlook the real reason that people visit and return to places: because those places make them feel happy and fulfilled.
When we talk of ‘outstanding places’, what do we mean? Well-planned, well-built, accessible spaces are crucial. So too is the role of nature and clean air. But it’s not just the spaces themselves that matter; it’s how you manage and curate them to bring as much joy and opportunity as possible to everyday life.
Being outside has taken on a whole new meaning. We’ve embraced the great outdoors
King’s Cross’s artist-in-residence programme was created to brighten our spaces and bring engaging art out of the gallery and into the public realm for all to enjoy. This summer, we welcomed our latest artist in residence Adam Nathaniel Furman, who opened the ‘Proud Little Pyramid’ in Granary Square. Adam is a champion of the LGBTQ+ community and we were delighted to welcome the artwork on site during Pride month. Using a bold architectural style and an infectious love of colour and pattern, Adam’s installation is designed to monumentalise joy after such a challenging year.
Art is at the beating heart of King’s Cross. One of our longest-standing pieces, IFO, most commonly known as ‘the birdcage’ in Battlebridge Place, serves as a meeting point for thousands every day. As with all these works, Adam’s installation is designed to be explored and sat within, not static or viewed from a distance.
Within our office, a recurring theme of conversation is how much we have all missed the random, serendipitous inspiration that comes from passing through our great city each day.
Public art is vital to opening the door to creativity, and the property sector has an important supporting role. By investing in artists and supporting arts organisations, we can help an industry devastated by the pandemic. We should continue to use art as a way of enhancing the joy of our places and spaces, one Proud Little Pyramid at a time.
Anthea Harries is head of assets at King’s Cross