Essential Architecture-  London

Alexandra Road Housing


Neave Brown


Abbey Road NW8 (Camden) 




High quality Brutalist


cast concrete


Apartment Building
Alexandra Road may be seen as the culminating effort by Neave Brown to apply the principles of the London terrace house to the design of high-density public housing. The 5 rowhouses on Winscombe Street built by Brown in 1967 for the architect and his friends were the first experiment with the terrace type. The Camden Town project at Fleet Road begun about the same time was a further application of the idea, now with over 50 dwellings, arranged in parallel, terraced rows. Alexandra road represents the application of the terraced theme on an enormous scale. Because Camden has three main rail stations, there is much rail-frontage land in this part of the city. Alexandra Road is built on one of these difficult frontage sites along the Euston line. 

The long, crescent-shaped site is bounded on the south by existing housing, major streets on the east and west and has continuous frontage along the railroad to the north. The desire to control the sound and vibration from the trains was a major consideration in the organization of three parallel rows of dwellings. Two rows of terraced apartments are aligned along the tracks with the higher 8 story stepped building designed to block the noise of the trains from reaching the interior portion of the site. A lower, 4-story block runs along the other side of a continuous public walkway that serves both terraced rows of buildings. These buildings are designed to open to the south. The third row of building, along the southern edge of the site, parallels another public walkway between this row and the existing earlier buildings of the Ainsworth Estate and defines an open public park between the second and third row of dwellings. A community center that includes a school, reception center, maintenance facilities and the heating plant mark the entrance to the site from London Road to the west and open to the park areas. The lower buildings contain maisonettes with shared access, terraces, and gardens. Maisonettes also occupy the top two levels of the large slab with entrance from a continuous gallery at the 7th floor. The dwellings in the lower floors in this block are flats that are entered from open stairs serving two dwellings per floor. Parking is located beneath the building along the tracks. Poured-in-place concrete is used throughout. Alexandra road received much criticism during and after construction because of enormous cost overruns caused by the complicated construction, unforeseen foundation problems and inflation. 

McKnean, Charles & Tom Jestico, Guide to Modern Building in London, , Academy, London, 1976, p. 38. 

Maxwell, Robert, article in Architectural Review, August, 1979, pp. 76-92. 

Architectural Design, Nov. 1969, pp. 593-601. 

RIBA Journal, "Cook's Camden", Nov. 1979, pp. 483-90. 

Architectural Design, "Housing in Camden", Mar. 1972-pp. 145-64. 

RIBA Journal, "Camden, Last of the Big Spenders", June, 1980, pp. 43-45. 

Freear, Andrew, "Alexandra Road: the last great social housing project", AA files, Sept, 1993, pp. 35-46, 

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