Camden council architect is first living designer to have all projects listed
PUBLISHED: 13:47 14 October 2014 | UPDATED: 19:57 14 October 2014
The man responsible for creating the model on which much of Camden's now iconic social housing was based in the 1960s is the first living architect to have all his UK projects listed.
The row of houses at 22-32 Winscombe Street, in Dartmouth Park N19, was built by American-born architect Neave Brown as a private co-housing project, backed by Camden council, for himself and friends to live in.
The buildings were given a grade II listing by English Heritage last week.
David Garrard, designation advisor at English Heritage said: “Inspired by both Continental Modernist prototypes and by the traditional London terrace, these houses are the first independent work by the distinguished housing architect Neave Brown.
“They are laid out with Brown’s characteristic mastery of domestic space, embodying various innovative features and expressing a distinctly community-spirited vision of home life.”
The five houses are identical thanks to a degree of architectural hoodwinking. Apparently Brown agreed to build the five houses according to the individual specifications of each owner, provided they did not discuss the plans amongst themselves.
Finding the four clients wanted more or less the same thing, Brown seems to have taken some delight in revealing the identical plans to them after each had approved their own design.
The houses went on to have a huge influence on the architecture of social housing in north London.
Garrard said: “The design formed a prototype for the celebrated public housing schemes that Brown and his colleagues went on to design for the London Borough of Camden.”
Neave Brown joined the architecture department at Camden council in the 1960s working under Sydney Cook for what was then considered the most progressive council in the UK.
Contrary to planning consensus at the time, which took a stack ‘em high approach to social housing, Brown believed in applying the principles of terraced housing to contemporary architecture.
He believed that all dwellings should have their own front door and their own private external space, in the form of a roof garden or terrace.
The pinnacle of this low rise, high density approach can be seen in the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, designed in 1968. This was the first post-War council housing estate to be listed when it received its grade II* status in 1993.
Matt Gibberd, director at The Modern House, an estate agent specialising in twentieth century architecture, said: “The social housing schemes built during Camden council’s architectural ‘golden age’ in the 1960s and 1970s are particularly sought-after among design-literate buyers.
“We have sold a number of flats on Neave Brown’s Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate in St John’s Wood, and they are always overwhelmingly popular. Buyers are attracted to the distinctive stepped terraces, the provision of outside space, and the dynamic, flexible interiors.
“Neave Brown influenced the design of numerous outstanding estates in north London, including Benson & Forsyth’s flats on Mansfield Road, and Peter Tabori’s Whittington Estate.”
Brown’s other UK project is the Fleet Road estate, which is grade II listed.
The architect moved there estate a few years ago, having lived in his house on Winscombe Street for 40 years.