Architect: Neave Brown

Rowley Way
London NW8

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This two-bedroom ex-Local Authority upper duplex is located on the iconic Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate in St John’s Wood. Built in the late 1960s to a design by the revered Modernist architect Neave Brown, the development has been given a rare Grade II* listing by English Heritage in recognition of its architectural significance.

The flat has its own entrance. Internal accommodation measures approximately 679sq ft over two floors. On the ground floor is a master bedroom with built-in storage, a second bedroom and a bathroom. The second floor contains an open-plan reception / kitchen / breakfast room, opening onto a terrace. Both the kitchen and the master bedroom have leafy views over the communal gardens at the rear, and large windows maximise the natural light. The property has off-street parking (with a low monthly charge).

Rowley Way is located near the amenities of London’s famous Abbey Road, with a further range of shops, cafés and restaurants on St John’s Wood High Street and West End Lane. The open spaces of Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park are also within walking distance. The Underground is available at nearby Swiss Cottage (Jubilee Line), and the Overground at South Hampstead.

With its striking stepped concrete terraces, the Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate (also known as Alexandra Road) is the most famous of the social housing schemes built during Camden’s “golden age” in the 1960s and 1970s. For more information on the background to the development, see the History section.

Tenure: Leasehold
Lease: approximately 114 years remaining
Service charge: £2,296 per annum
Ground rent: £10 per annum

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.


History

The Metropolitan Boroughs of St. Pancras, Holborn and Hampstead merged to become Camden in 1965. Under the stewardship of Sydney Cook, the borough quickly became renowned for its radical new housing. Cook appointed a “dream team” of architects working out of Holborn Town Hall, foremost of whom was Neave Brown.

The Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate (also known as Alexandra Road) is the most famous of the projects completed during this period – others include the Dunboyne Estate, also by Neave Brown, Benson & Forsyth’s Branch Hill and Maiden Lane, and Peter Tabori’s Highgate New Town.

In 2011 the estate was the subject of a photography exhibition in the Tenants Hall. The following is some information that accompanied it:

“Creating a Piece of City: Neave Brown and the Design of Alexandra Road” by Professor Mark Swenarton, University of Liverpool

“…Alexandra Road immediately attracted architectural attention worldwide for its innovative design. In 1993 its exceptional importance was officially recognized by English Heritage when it was listed grade 2-star, one of a small number of postwar housing estates to achieve this status.

“But Alexandra Road was not just a housing scheme: it was, in Neave Brown’s words, ‘a piece of city’, comprising shops, workshops, community centre, four-acre park, special needs school, children’s reception centre and care home for handicapped adults, as well as more than 500 homes. And while it was designed to meet the normal requirements of local authority housing in terms of costs and space standards, Alexandra Road incorporated a dramatic centrepiece, a 350m-long curving pedestrian street, Rowley Way, lined on either side by stepped terraces that extend along its full length.

“In designing these projects, the Camden architects sought an alternative to the high-rise blocks that most local authorities were building. Brown believed that every home should have its own front door opening directly onto the network of routes and streets that make up a city; and that every home should have its own private external space, open to the sky, in the form of a roof garden or terrace. It was these ideas that he incorporated to such striking effect at Alexandra Road.

“Brown designed the scheme immediately after his first scheme for Camden, Fleet Road (now known as the Dunboyne Road estate), and the lineage is clear in the internal organisation of the dwellings: open-plan format with through views and sliding partitions; bedrooms on lower floors with living/kitchen areas above; and a private open-to-the-sky external space for every dwelling, whether house, maisonette or flat.

“When Brown presented the Alexandra Road design to the Camden councillors they applauded its ‘ambitious and imaginative quality’. But constructing so complex a project stretched the council’s management abilities to breaking point; and by the time the first tenants moved in, in January 1978, costs had soared. The council, now with Ken Livingstone as chair of housing, commissioned an independent enquiry but the resultant report (1981) proved something of a damp squib, with the council’s project management procedures  rather than, as some councillors hoped, the architects taking the blame for the cost overrun.

“Alexandra Road is organised around a linear park. To the south is a single three/four-storey terrace of houses, block C, that faces the six-storey slabs of the pre-existing London County Council estate. To the north is the curving pedestrian street, Rowley Way (named after Camden’s director of housing). This is lined on one side by a four-storey terrace, block B (comprising two banks of two-storey maisonettes) and on the other by a six-storey slab projecting out over the railway tracks, block A (with three-bedroom maisonettes at the bottom, three storeys of flats in the middle and a two-bedroom maisonette on the top). At the eastern end of the pedestrian street, close to the special school, is the social heart of the scheme, with the community centre and shops opening off a multi-tiered public plaza.

“After leaving Camden, Neave Brown went on to build a number of projects influenced by Alexandra Road, including most recently the Medina project in the centre of Eindhoven in The Netherlands. He has been a resident of Camden for nearly 50 years and currently lives on the Dunboyne Road estate, the first scheme that he designed for Camden and the precursor of Alexandra Road.”


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Neave Brown

Neave Brown (b.1929) was born in Utica, New York State, and was educated in the USA and at the Architectural Association in London. He has built many residential houses and housing estates in England, Italy and the Netherlands. In the UK, his high-density modernist social housing is based on the principles of the London terraced house and on the notion of flexible space. Brown’s radical Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate (also known as Alexandra Road) is the most famous of the social-housing schemes completed in the London Borough of Camden during its architectural “Golden Age” in the 1960s – others include the Dunboyne Estate, also by Neave Brown, Benson & Forsyth’s Branch Hill and Maiden Lane, and Peter Tabori’s Highgate New Town. Brown believed that every home should have its own front door and its own private external space, open to the sky, in the form of a roof garden or terrace. It was these ideas that he incorporated to such striking effect at Alexandra Road. The estate incorporates a dramatic centrepiece, a 350m-long curving pedestrian street lined on either side by stepped terraces that extend along its full length. In addition to teaching at several schools in England, Europe and America, Brown has held many prestigious positions including Vice President of the Architectural Association (1972-74). More recently, he completed a BA in Fine Art at the City and Guilds of London School of Art and now dedicates himself to practising fine art.

Key Residential Projects
Housing estates in London
Terrace of houses in London


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