Heatherwick Studio has done a stellar job melding old and new with its latest project, Coal Drops Yard. The firm turned two dilapidated Victorian-era coal storage buildings in London into a large new shopping center crowned by a stunning roof structure.

Coal Drops Yard is centered around two ornate iron and brick railway buildings dating back to around the 1850s. The buildings were originally used to store coal delivered from northern England, which was then transferred around London by barge and horse-drawn cart. Over the years, the buildings were variously used for warehousing and as nightclubs, before becoming partially derelict in the 1990s.

Heatherwick's design extends the two buildings and two viaducts also on the site with massive new roofs that project outwards and meet in mid-air. The large roofs create additional retail space, as well as a covered outdoor area below. Elsewhere, the shopping center includes restaurants, bars, and cafes.

"The design extends the inner gabled roofs of the warehouses to link the two viaducts and define the yard, as well as creating fluid patterns of circulation," says the firm. "The flowing roofs, supported by an entirely new and highly technical freestanding structure interlaced within the heritage fabric, rise up and stretch towards each other until they touch. This forms an entirely new floating upper story, a large covered outdoor space and a central focus for the entire site."

The graceful appearance of the roofs belie their complexity. They feature a support structure comprising 52 steel columns, which were concealed behind old brick and iron. The curved roof sections are made from a steel framework and, in a nice touch, the 80,000 slate tiles that cover the roofs were drawn from the same slate quarry in North Wales used when constructing the original buildings over 150 years ago.

Additionally, a total of 64 panels of structural glass are arranged in a serrated pattern ensure panoramic views from the top floors.

Coal Drops Yard is Thomas Heatherwick's first project in his native London (Garden Bridge would have been another). It won't be his last though, and his firm is also collaborating with Bjarke Ingels Group to design Google's new HQ, the "landscraper," in the capital.

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