The great architect was caught in the crossfire during a political battle over housing in the 1970s—but has emerged utterly vindicatedby Owen Hatherley / October 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
In 1963, the architect Neave Brown designed a terrace of houses for himself and some friends, organised as a housing co-op, in north London. These houses—cubic and elegant to the street, with a lush communal garden, and large, open-plan rooms—were a small alternative to the way re-housing was being done in London at the time, when terraced streets were replaced with towers in open space.
Impressed, the local authority, under the Borough Architect Sydney Cook, hired Brown to design two council estates for them, using similar ideas, and with identical flat sizes—Fleet Road, in Gospel Oak, and Alexandra Road, in Swiss Cottage. It’s for these three that Brown, an architect who has not worked in Britain since 1978, has just received the RIBA Gold Medal. Brown is also the only living British architect to have had all his buildings listed—less of an accolade, when you realise there’s only three of them. One reason why there are so few is the politics of Labour councils in the late 1970s, a battle where Brown and other architects were caught in the crossfire.