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Behind the Scenes : The Standard Hotel

Monday 16 May 2022

Timo Haedrich words
Mireille Burkhardt photos

The Standard experience

The Standard is ‘the’ luxury hotel in Kings Cross, and we had the great pleasure of getting a guided tour and detailed look at this brilliant building. Re-imagined by Orms, with Archer Humphreys and Shawn Hausman Design, this project stands apart for its imaginative reuse of an existing structure, but also for housing one of the most extravagant hotels in London.

It has been described as ‘a jewel of Kings Cross’, this sets a high standard (pun alert), as the whole area has been through such a magnificent transformation in the last decade or so.

From the outside, the building looks less like a jewel, but more like the shell of a sea creature, sheltering a vibrant, softer inner life. With its exposed aggregate concrete shell, the structure stands proud and tall, right opposite the opulent and marvellous St Pancras Station. In a previous life, the hotel was the home of Camden Council, but now it is a different kind of animal, teeming with life, colourful, exuberant, and fascinating, making the most of its busy location.

Behind the Scenes : The Standard Hotel

The existing building is a gem. Built in 1977, it is a great example of how structure and architecture can work in unison. With its exoskeletal structure and waffle-slab floorplates, a minimal use of internal columns was necessary to allow for open plan offices. The building was designed ‘in-house’, by Camden Council architects, at a time where bright architects were snatched up by the council to design their own ‘home’. A brilliant and enlightened procurement strategy, really, and arguably it is not a coincidence that this original birth/rebirth project has happened in one of the most progressive councils in London.

We walked around the building, through the public park at the back of the building and along the passage to the west, which once featured an elevated connection between the new Camden Council building and the 1930’s Camden Town Hall. With the connection removed, both buildings have more breathing space, more permeability around the building is achieved, and the separate identities are allowed to shine. Significantly, a new connection has been added around the corner facing Euston Road. If you fancy a thrill ride, you can take a bright red, pill shaped elevator to the rooftop bar, whilst marvelling at another amazing hotel (only 150 years older).

Unlucky for us the signal-red elevator, an homage to the London bus, was not in use, as the main top floor bar is closed on Monday. But thanks to our guides, we found another way up to the new, beautifully designed, rooftop extension. A metal clad exterior, with strong vertical fins, crownlike, manages to reinterpret the existing, whilst also giving the whole building a bright and daring new identity. But enough about the architecture, most crucially The Standard is home to four separate bars!

Behind the Scenes : The Standard Hotel

Three of those are housed in the new roof extension. One has a strong 1970’s look and feel. A hybrid of a comfy mountain timber lodge (it’s all dark timber everywhere, woven carpets on the wall) and something very akin to the bar featured in the film ‘The Shining’. Slightly unnerving, but also inviting, because every surface and every detail has been considered. It is wild, a sensory overload, well worth a visit. (A hidden nugget; the loos have some of the best views in London, another generous design detail.)

The next bar emulates 1920’s New York chic, it was also sadly closed on a Monday. It’s worth a visit as it has stunning views over Kings Cross station. Finally, the group did quench its thirst in the third bar, a stunning open-air roof top bar with broad views over London and the big skies on display. The fourth bar, called ‘Double Standard’, is on the ground floor. Probably because of its slightly less exuberant, more muted finishes and furnishings, this is my personal favourite. Probably also because the service was top standard, to a degree that we got offered a free drink, simply because the waiter forgot to bring some ice.

Behind the Scenes : The Standard Hotel

We toured some of the rooms, too, which almost all feature porthole like, focused views into the Kings Cross surroundings. Some rooms are entirely internalised, without any windows at all. Others have bathtubs on the terrace with 180-degree views of London. Another set of rooms, called the ‘town house’, are designed to accommodate private parties only, with zero beds. So, there is quite an array of possibilities here and the operators are taking the definition of the idea of what a hotel offers to a new standard...

The team behind this project have achieved something amazing. Turning the former home of Camden Council into a destination - an extrovert and lavish ‘out-of-this-world’ hotel -cannot have been easy. A great example of how a building can be re-imagined and both the architects and developer (Crosstree) deserve the praise and awards the building has received. Keeping the existing building was a key and inspired decision, this approach keeps the carbon looked in. But they also reassured that the building has a bright future…. refurbish, reuse, reimagine, re-love -don’t spend the carbon twice!

Finally, a big ‘Thank you’ to Club member Margarita Boulaki for organising, and Rachel Hoolahan and Kate Knowles of Orms who took the time to show us around.
A guided tour is always something special but here you could feel the enthusiasm and positive energy that working on this inspiring and trailblazing project has brought.