Neave Brown, 1978
85b Rowley Way, NW8 0SN
Visit a recently refurbished apartments of Neave Brown’s Alexandra Road Estate in Camden. This is a 3 bed maisonette flat, lower ground and ground floor levels on block B along the pedestrian Rowley Way.
Swiss Cottage, Finchley Road
31, 189, 139
The flat is only accessible through a short flight of stair and it is organised over two levels
The Alexandra Road estate (officially the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate) is a housing estate in the London Borough of Camden, London. It was designed in 1968 by architect Neave Brown. Construction work commenced in 1972 and was completed in 1978; it comprises 520 apartments, a school, community centre, youth club, heating complex, and parkland.
What led to the complex realisation?
The Metropolitan Borough of Camden was formed in 1964 and comprised the former boroughs of Hampstead, Holborn and St Pancras – respectively intellectual, wealthy and radical. It was also the third richest borough in London in terms of rateable value. Add the politics of a young and ambitious Labour council, for whom ‘the main aim was more housing.
The Council found in Sydney Cook, Borough Architect, and the team he recruited people with the vision and ideological drive to match its ambitions. Cook rejected the system-building then in vogue as the means to build as much as cheaply as possible and he rejected high-rise, particularly the tower blocks set in open landscape popular at the time.
In Neave Brown, the architect of Alexandra Road, he found an ally. Brown wanted to:
“Build low, to fill the site, to geometrically define open space, to integrate. And to return to housing the traditional quality of continuous background stuff, anonymous, cellular, repetitive, that has always been its virtue.”
The apartment is organized over two levels. The upper ground floor consists of the living areas, an open plan layout facing onto the north and south with access to a terrace and sunken private courtyards with views over the luxurious estate garden. The lower ground floor accommodates the sleeping area which consists of two bedrooms and a bathroom. The larger bedroom was originally split into two independent single bedrooms divided by a sliding floor to ceiling panel, and faces out onto the private sunken courtyard.
The flat was in need of a deep refurbishment: most of the original fittings were either removed or altered and the few remaining ones show strong signs of decay. The aim of the project is to bring back the splendor of the flat interiors when first opened its doors by reinstating the initial fittings and material where possible and replacing the poor quality materials that were applied over time with contemporary, high quality ones that reflect the original design and palette colour.
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