Cover-up! Quentin Blake drafted in to hide 'unsightly' buildings

The children's illustrator has been hired to give travellers stepping off the new high-speed train from Paris a better first impression of the city
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The Independent Online

As the artist whose illustrations enlivened Roald Dahl's children's books, Quentin Blake is renowned for his inspirational work.

Yet, even by his standards, the artist's latest feat is exceptional: he is working with property developers to make an entire building in central London disappear. He has been commissioned to provide a giant drawing to hide a ramshackle block called Stanley Building South, which stands on the edge of the £2bn King's Cross redevelopment.

The building is empty and boarded up. More to the point, in the minds of the property developer Argent, it is far too much of an eyesore to be the first thing that passengers see as they step off the high-speed train from Paris.

Their prescription for this problem is an artistic screen illustrated by Blake, to hide the dilapidated building. It would become a feature, illuminated at night by floodlights.

"Stanley South is part of an international gateway and will soon be very much 'on show'," Argent has told local authority planning officers. "Its current visual appearance – pending the longer-term refurbishment – detracts from the quality of environment and world-class gateway now being put in place."

Blake, 75, was asked to create "an imaginary welcoming committee". He has included characters singing and dancing, swigging beer and enjoying food.

"It is a scene of celebration with bunting and flag-waving to greet the new arrivals," according to Argent. "It is an arresting image to make visitors feel that they have arrived somewhere fun, welcoming and memorable."

Blake, who illustrated Dahl classics such as The Twits, Matilda and The BFG, was chosen because he was interested in a proposal to open a Museum of Illustration somewhere on the redevelopment site.

"Quentin Blake's work is high-profile within France," said the developer. "This adds to the logic of commissioning [him] to create a unique illustration at Stanley South that will celebrate . . . the arrival of the high-speed train connection with France into St Pancras, and the wider regeneration of King's Cross Central, which has now begun in earnest."

The only stumbling block is that the project doesn't meet Camden council's strict planning codes on "wraps". The developers are asking officials to treat their application as a "special case". A decision is expected next month.