Uncovering the cultural history of King's Cross


Arts & Culture

Digital Placemaking


In 2012, British newspaper, The Guardian, approached Calvium with an idea to create audio street-stories based around King’s Cross Station that allows the listener to wander as they please instead of following a directed route. With her extensive expertise in creating podcasts, Francesca Panetta was clear about the immersive audio experience she wanted to create. She came with her own rules for how audio should blend, fade and mix between layers of the sound-scape. She was also looking for a solution that would enable her to create more experiences in more places in the future. The timescale for the project was to have the app designed, developed and launched in just two months.


With only 2 months to deliver the project, we quickly identified the key aspects the app needed and planned the development so that the creative team could immediately begin to test audio samples on location and agree a process for parallel and agile development of the app.

Working with Fran, we developed a custom edition of Calvium’s AppFurnace platform that would mix and play layers of ambient sounds, speech and music to the exact specification of Fran’s rules. Our system allowed the audio production team to upload recordings, draw regions on a map and associate audio files to those regions through an agreed naming scheme. Calvium created all of the logic and rules for handling and blending the atmospheric layers, music and stories so that the production team could concentrate on story production. The Guardian team were able to test the app on location as they were working, enabling them to experiment with content, locations and timings seamlessly with production of their content.

The Guardian Kings Cross Stories app interface mocked up on 4 black iphone screens

We also advised the Guardian that creating an app where the stories could only be accessed on location would limit the audience for the app and could frustrate people who don’t read the small print. We recommended the ability to play stories manually if you were not at Kings Cross and the Guardian embraced the idea and designed a manual and automatic interface so that stories would automatically play when you were on location but you were also able to play them manually when you were not.

We had great pleasure working with the Guardian interface designers who created the visuals and overall style of the app.

With our expertise, we helped them avoid the potential difficulties that come with location-based apps, and being able to test their app on location, within seconds of making changes, allowed the project to reach its full potential and freed the Guardian team from relying too heavily on developers, unlike with traditional app development strategies.

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