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Community consultation for 33 Caledonian Road

Learn about our plans for the building and share your thoughts on them.

Physics for the world, physics for the community

Welcome to our webpages about the IOP’s redevelopment plans for 33 Caledonian Road.

Physics has a huge role to play in developing solutions to the great global challenges we face, from climate change to healthcare, and in building technologies that will underpin our future, from green energy to artificial intelligence (AI).

Our role at the IOP is to support this globally important work. We work with governments and industry to promote physics investment and research. We work to ensure the physics community is open to all, attracting talented people from all backgrounds to study physics. And we work to promote public understanding of physics and its importance.

At the heart of all of this work is our relationship with the communities we serve – starting with the local community in Islington.

These webpages are designed to tell you about our plans for 33 Caledonian Road, and the impact we hope to have with this project – for physics in the UK and Ireland, and for our local community. Our feedback questionnaire is now closed and we are working to feed the views expressed into our formal planning application.

The plans

We are proposing to extend our current headquarters into neighbouring 33 Caledonian Road, which sits on the corner of Caledonian Road and Balfe Street. The building was in use as a cocktail bar for the 20 years prior to its acquisition by the IOP, most recently as a Be at One.

As part of this project, we plan to restore and refurbish 33 Caledonian Road to create a publicly available ‘makerspace’, equipped with specialist technology to enable skills development, learning and enterprise.

The ground floor will be used by families, community groups and upper primary to lower secondary school groups.

The first floor will contain more-advanced technical facilities to support upper secondary, and further and higher education students.

The second floor will become an open-plan space to support work-based study for apprentices and college students.

A new third-floor extension will contain additional meeting space for the IOP, and community and national partners and networks. For example, on this floor we’ll be able to hold hackathon sessions to help give people the skills they need to solve coding problems.

All spaces will be wheelchair accessible, with a lift serving every floor. 

What is a makerspace?

A makerspace is a collaborative, creative space for learning new skills, experimenting, and sharing knowledge in an explorative way.

The IOP’s makerspace will inspire people to grow their skills and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and entrepreneurism. It will enable the local community to get hands-on with electronics, engineering, 3D printing, 3D modelling software and robotics.

A young female student soldering

The new space will also have computer coding facilities and high-specification computers to teach key coding languages for use in gaming software, AI, machine learning and augmented reality. The IOP will employ local technicians and have an apprenticeship support programme to run the spaces.

As the membership organisation for physicists in the UK and Ireland, our community of members across business and industry can help us develop our makerspace, ensuring we provide cutting-edge technology and remain relevant to the world of work. IOP members are already actively involved in running successful makerspaces across the UK and have a wealth of experience that we are able to draw on in designing this new community space.

Our work in the community

My Moon Adventure family-friendly exhibition

In 2018, Islington’s Residents’ Survey set out the pressing need in Islington for free activities for young people and accessible services for families with young children. It has been important to us in our partnership work with the borough to make sure that we bring benefit through free support for our local community.

Since moving to our current premises at 37 Caledonian Road in 2018, we have been active members of the community. We have held engaging, family-friendly events within the building, adding to our outreach work in other community spaces across Islington.

These include public exhibitions and related events programmes, for local people and visitors to Islington. Our weekend family days – free, family-friendly drop-in sessions, open to all, which include fun, interactive science, arts and crafts activities – attracted over 1,200 families and children in 2019.

Our last in-person event, Building the Universe: One Block at a Time, took place in February 2020. In partnership with the University of York, we delivered an exhibition and events programme that explored the mysteries of the periodic table through the medium of Lego.

During the exhibition and family-day programme (reaching over 575 adults and young people), visitors could play with a giant version of the chart of the elements made of thousands of Lego bricks, meet friendly physicists and learn about nuclear physics through the virtual environment of Minecraft.

We look forward to returning to face-to-face community activities as COVID-19 restrictions allow. All of our activities will be enhanced and expanded by the extra space created through the redevelopment of 33 Caledonian Road.

Supporting local schools

A key aim of our plans for 33 Caledonian Road is to expand our local schools programme.

The IOP runs a busy engagement programme with local primary and secondary schools. Previous highlights have included:

  • Hosting the Science For Life Young Scientists Conference, which brought together over 50 primary school pupils from across Islington;
  • Piloting homework clubs for local girls studying GCSE physics, in partnership with the Islington Science for Life network;
  • Hosting the third sole female Nobel laureate for physics, Donna Stickland, who gave a lecture to A-level students from Islington;
  • Facilitating students from City and Islington College to build a cosmic ray detector, which was installed on the roof of 37 Caledonian Road. The students were awarded gold for the project at the HiSPARC Conference on Cosmic Rays, which took place at the University of Sussex; and
  • Providing free continuing professional development for local teachers and technicians – reaching every secondary school in the borough.
A school student performing a science experiment

During the pandemic, we have increased our online engagement with schools:

  • In April 2021, an event for Islington schools, inspired by the recent Nasa mission to Mars, Perseverance, brought together over 700 students from 11 local primary schools. The students heard from a UK space-science engineer about what it takes to get technology into space and on to another planet. Schools now have the opportunity to investigate these ideas in the classroom through a range of practical activities, ending with a conference-style event for the young scientists at the end of the school term.
  • In March 2021 we celebrated National Careers Week by delivering a programme of online careers events for young people aged 12-14. On the theme of global challenges, the events explored careers linked to climate change, robotics and AI, and the role of physics in medicine. Participants had the opportunity to meet friendly role models from across the physics sector and hear their stories, and ask questions to deepen their understanding of how doing physics can open up a diverse range of careers. As part of our offer to Islington schools, they were offered priority booking 48 hours ahead of the rest of the UK and Ireland. Overall, 885 young people and their teachers from across the UK and Ireland attended the online events, asking 346 questions over the course of the week.

The new spaces created by the redevelopment of 33 Caledonian Road will provide additional learning resources and technical learning opportunities for a wide range of students.

Our activities and events will focus on engaging with children and young people in years 5, 8 and 12 (and other post-16 equivalents) in Islington schools, colleges and non-mainstream provision. Expansion into 33 Caledonian Road will enable us to offer whole-class visits by using the space in combination with 37 Caledonian Road.

Improving the area for residents

The IOP has played an important role in supporting the improvement of the Kings Cross area for the benefit of local communities.

Our move to 37 Caledonian Road was warmly supported by many local people, who recognised the positive impact the building could have on the area.

Some comments from the public consultation on 37 Caledonian Road:

“This enterprise will encourage people to see Caledonian Road as a safe, stimulating and interesting place to walk along/engage in.”

“This project will assist the regeneration of lower Caledonian Road, which is in danger of being left out of the wider regeneration of Kings Cross nearby.”

Our latest proposals will breathe new life into 33 Caledonian Road, a Victorian structure, which for the last 20 years has been a cocktail bar.

In recent years, with the redevelopment of Kings Cross, the area has become saturated with licensed premises, including establishments along the lower part of Caledonian Road and many more in neighbouring streets. While the community does not need another bar, it will benefit immeasurably from the injection of energy and engagement with the whole community that the IOP extension offers.

An artist's impression of 33 Caledonian Road

The proposed development as viewed from Caledonian Road

Protecting the heritage of the building

Previous owners of 33 Caledonian Road made changes to the building which detract from its heritage and affect its appearance on the upper floors of the Balfe Street side, and the shopfront as a whole.

Our development of 37 Caledonian Road in 2017/18 brought a high-quality, sensitively designed building to Caledonian Road and Balfe Street. The extension into 33 Caledonian Road will be consistent with the design of the earlier project, whilst retaining or restoring the external fabric of the original Victorian building. We are seeking to retain every important historic feature of the façade and to replace detrimental features with high-quality detailing that complements the historic nature of the building.

An artist’s impression of the proposals for 33 Caledonian Road and Balfe Street

The restored facade on Balfe Street

The plans aim not only to protect the existing external appearance of 33 Caledonian Road, but also to restore the frontage on Balfe Street. The frontage to Balfe Street currently has an unattractive ‘back of house’ nature that does not befit its prominence in the street scene. This can be addressed as part of the proposals. The third-floor extension will be set back from the edge of the building to minimise its impact whilst creating a more complete end to the terrace façade.

We are working with heritage officers at Islington Council to ensure the designs are appropriate for a building of this age and will integrate into the area, preserving and enhancing the Keystone Conservation Area.

Protecting the environment

Our headquarters at 37 Caledonian Road was developed with science at its core, using innovative technologies to maximise its sustainability. This resulted in a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of ‘excellent’, which places it in the top 10% of non-residential buildings for sustainability.

The proposals for 33 Caledonian Road build on this environmental success. Subtle, roof-mounted photovoltaic cells will generate part of the energy required to run the building. High-quality materials will ensure energy efficiency. Heat pumps in the basement will recover energy from the ground below, adding to the efficiency of heating and cooling the building.

The proposed new roof space will also host an environmental monitoring deck, meaning that the building will play a role in helping to understand and monitor the local environment.

Have your say

Thank you for showing an interest in our project.

Our consultation process is now complete and we are processing the information we have gathered to inform our formal planning application to Islington Council. Thank you to everyone who took part. 

When the formal planning application is prepared we will publish it on this website. As part of the planning process, local people will have a further opportunity to comment on the plans once the application has been submitted to Islington Council.

A council planning committee is expected to make a decision on the project later in 2021. If given the go ahead, works are expected to commence in autumn 2021 and take roughly 12-18 months to complete.

On 1 July we held a live online Q&A for local people and anyone who signed up on this webpage. We have produced this brief summary of the Q&A event (PDF, 173KB) including all the questions and answers.

Get in touch

If you have any comments or questions about the proposals, please:

  • Email any questions to [email protected]
  • Write to the project team at: 33CR Project Team, Institute of Physics, 37 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9BU

Our consultation questionnaire closed on 16 July 2021. Thanks to everyone who completed it.