Kissing roofs, archways and five surprise faces: the making of Double Take with Coal Drops Yard


      A physical and digital takeover that invited Londoners to explore Coal Drops Yard.

      Coal Drops Yard, the shopping and dining destination in London’s King’s Cross, partnered with It’s Nice That to welcome some colourful new residents. Commissioned for Coal Drops Yard by Company, Place Ltd, we produced a physical installation occupying the nooks and crannies of the central courtyard. We also created a supporting social campaign, all of which referenced the heritage of the site but added a modern twist.

      With Coal Drops Yard being a relatively new hub for Londoners and tourists alike, the team briefed It’s Nice That to create a physical and digital experience that would appeal to the discerning eyes of a creative audience, encouraging them to wander around and explore the boutiques and restaurants on offer.

      When developing ideas for the installation, we were inspired by the fact that there is more to Coal Drops Yard than meets the eye. From its visual identity referencing shapes found in the architecture of the buildings, to the resident businesses using the space in unexpected ways, we were always taking a second look. This led us to the concept of Double Take.

      We began looking at how we could create moments around the space that would catch people’s attention, or encourage them to look a bit closer. We explored ideas relating to movement, the history of the place and illusion, but ultimately using characters felt like the most playful and practical choice.

      We worked with spatial designers Isabel + Helen to create these characters, whose playful and humorous approach was perfect for this project. They thought not only about the desired view point for each sculpture but how they would look from all angles. Production designer James Hamilton and his team at Made Workshop then helped to make Isabel + Helen’s 3D designs a reality.

      Each of the five abstract characters drew passersby into the surroundings with bright and friendly faces. Electric blue eyes with raised brows guided people through a pair of arches to Regent’s Canal, while a giant, purple smile framed a passageway leading to Stable Street. Meanwhile, a slightly shocked-looking yellow character highlighted the point at which Heatherwick Studio’s “kissing” roofs meet.

      The positions of the characters were carefully selected to align with visitors’ routes through the space, grabbing their attention so that we could create a “Double Take” moment for each sculpture. Visitors could view the installations from every angle and through multiple arches, stairways and from different floors. And to help navigate these various locations, we created viewpoint signage and maps. We also chose a colour palette for the installation that was in stark contrast to the muted tones of the buildings. But while the characters needed to stand out, it was important for them to also look at home, so each statue was constructed out of geometric shapes inspired by the historic architecture.

      This influenced our animated takeover of Coal Drops Yard’s Instagram account. We wanted the whole experience to be as holistic as possible, so we worked with animators Arina Shabanova, Eva Cremers, Jaedoo Lee, Wang & Soderstrom, Raman Djafari and Milo Targett to produce original content that referenced the heritage of the site but riffed on the playfulness and dynamism of our characters. Using the district’s recognisable visual identity as a framework, their unique animations brought it to life in digital form, in the same way that the sculptures animated the bricks and mortar of the architecture.


      Double Take sculpture in Coal Drops Yard

      • Five large scale sculptures installed around one of London’s most exciting food and retail destinations
      • Eight creatives commissioned spanning mediums including graphic design, animation, set-design and more
      • 800,000 total reach across It's Nice That channels, with 15,000 views to the campaign's editorial features

      The sculptures were a huge hit with the public. We saw many stop to take photographs of them, touch the surfaces of the statues, the bright colours and geometric shapes inviting interaction. And with our creative social media campaign, we saw Coal Drops Yard social engagement triple during the course of our takeover.

      “From the moment we placed the sculptures, even as we were applying the finishing touches to the paintwork, visitors were stopping, having a closer look and taking a photo – that was pretty cool to see!” says Ali Hanson, creative at It’s Nice That.

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