City-Insights’ ground breaking digital heritage trail preserving the past and revealing the future at the King’s Cross redevelopment

What happens in urban environments undergoing large scale redevelopment? How can you preserve the heritage whilst promoting the changes? How can you help people feel invested in a project?

It is a combination of characteristics that makes a place special and unique.

According to the Art of Geography: “Sense of place involves the human experience in a landscape, the local knowledge and folklore. Sense of place also grows from identifying oneself in relation to a particular piece of land on the surface of planet Earth.”

Across the UK the skyline is changing and so is the embodied sense of place that identifies these locations. This can cause tension as local heritage, identities, associations and communities are pushed to make space for new incoming identities. The challenge in the 21st century is how can we preserve and celebrate these locations’ past identities, their heritage and its part in the wider story, whilst promoting positive change.

King’s Cross is a good example of this. The area has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years and its history actually dates back as far as Boudicca and Roman Londinium. Over the years many historians, social, industrial and other, have marked the area as having significantly impacted London, especially since the coming of the canal and railways during the first half of the 19th century. Tensions here focus on the very real possibility that, with a new face and identity/brand as a central location of the Knowledge Quarter, the rich and intriguing history of the area may be forgotten.

To make sure this didn’t happen at the King’s Cross Partnership (supported by developers Argent), City-Insights (digital Platform) and partner companies Hotrod Creations and TGAC (2D design, content), have created and deployed the Digital Heritage Trail.

An existing base of heritage material was added to with generous loans of images from the London Canal Museum (5mins from King’s Cross) and input from Islington and Camden Archives (5-10mins from King’s Cross), as well as independent research. Sticking with the local talent actors from The Poor School, down the road from King’s Cross, dramatized pieces of literature, poems and oral histories to really make the content pop.

Stories around King’s Cross range from community projects like the Skip Garden and Café to the Roman history of the site, memories of living on the canals during the 50s, interviews with the development team explaining their vision for the future of King’s Cross with CGIs, artist representations and much, much more.

Using a City-Insights Platform is a means to preserve and re-interpret the identity of a place and its heritage through an overlay of dynamic narratives delivered through engaging multimedia experiences. It is especially designed to be flexible and scalable meaning small projects can grow quickly and indefinitely.

It is a way to involve local communities, institutions and organisations in the preservation of their environs, as well as a tool to utilise the latent value of expensive assets left sitting in corporate archives – the CGI renderings, timelapses, interviews, design ideas, CSR,

PR and marketing material, etc. It is this marriage of corporate and heritage that, we feel, warrants serious exploration in future urban development projects.