Following my visit to Robin Hood Gardens and still thinking about our shrinking social housing stock, I decided to visit a well-known concrete estate based in Camden.
The Alexandra & Ainsworth estate was designed by Neave Brown in 1968 and has become a brutalist landmark – often featured in Open House and often used for films, TV shows, and photoshoots for fashion editorials.
I think this is due to its stark, otherworldly layout: the relics of a possible future planned out back in the late 60s and 70s but never fully realised. Alexandra & Ainsworth is an interesting case as it is been recognised as an architectural landmark and is Grade II listed, saving it from meeting the bulldozers in the same fashion as Robin Hood. Half of the estate has remained social housing while the other half has transferred to private ownership.
The private tenants are predominantly people who want to enjoy the building and have maintained their flats in the original layout. The estate is a place where owner-occupiers and social tenants co-exist in harmony, with the lines of social class demolished by the collective appreciation of their domestic environment.
The Japanese-style terraced gardens are a superb example of how the design utilises limited space, giving most residents a balcony or planter to make their own. I love the idea of a space as a blank canvas, where it is down to people to take a flat as it is and carve their own environment within its confines – giving all people the chance to be both equal and different in their space; everyone has the same basic materials, but the result is entirely their own.
It’s great to see a bold, fantastic piece of architecture appreciated and safeguarded for people to enjoy. It’s a testament to the ideal that good design will stand the test of time.
Thank you for your attention.