Though London is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, that isn’t to say that it hasn’t made many valiant efforts to rectify that. At the top of almost every mayoral candidate’s list of priorities for the last ten years has been increasing affordable housing within the capital.
While gentrification is never far away in London, architects and designers have made great strides in closing the affordability gap of the London property market with some standout council housing estates that have stood the test of time.
Neave Brown received the RIBA royal gold medal in October 2017 in recognition for his lifetime of contributing to the advancement of architecture. Brown was instrumental in the boom of council estates in London in the 1960s - 7os.
Brown and his team shied away from the typical tower block approach to affordable housing, pushing hard against the cheap, contractor-led system building techniques. They ended up creating a new humanism where low-rise, medium- to high-density housing layouts responded to the characteristics of north London, creating new neighbourhoods and people-focused domestic space.
Dunboyne Estate, Fleet Road, Camden
Dunboyne Road was completed in 1975, with the affordable yet spacious homes arranged in stepped terraces amidst a landscape of trees and gardens.
Planning of Dunboyne Road began in 1967 as an experiment drawing on Brown’s previous small housing scheme in Winscombe Street. The mixed-use development included 71 houses, a shop, and a studio, grouped in either eight or sixteen homes arranged in parallel terraced rows.
Dunboyne Road was constructed in 1975 as a mixed-use affordable housing development. Image source
Each house included a large terrace that overlooked the estate’s communal gardens and retains many of its original features to this day. The properties were split-level two-bedroom maisonettes, with a sitting room on the split level and large sliding doors leading onto the paved terrace.
Housing units all have access to the paved terrace. Image source
Housing units include: full storey height doors; a tiled concrete kitchen worktop with timber built in cupboards and drawers; stairs in a glazed stairwell and stairs between the split level living areas; sliding partition between the living area and study allows the residents to configure their living space.
Alexandra Road Estate, Camden
The Alexandra Road Estate may be seen as Brown's culminating, and largest scale, effort to apply these principles to the design of high-density public housing. Designed in 1968, the North West London estate was built between 1972 and 1978. The ambitious mixed-use community not only included 520 apartments, but also a school, community centre, youth club, heating complex, and parkland.
Alexandra Road Estate was built between 1972 and 1978. Image source
Alexandra Road consists of three parallel blocks that run east to west and occupies a crescent-shaped site in North West London. Special considerations were made in the layout design to control for the sound and vibration of passing trains. The two rows of terraced apartments that are aligned along the train tracks are organised in the form of a ziggurat, acting as a noise barrier to the interior of the development. Its foundations also rest on rubber pads so as to eliminate the vibration of passing trains.
Terraced apartments arrange in a ziggurat act as a sound barrier to the rest of the development. Image source
Large family-sized ground floor apartments are bright and spacious, with set-back upper floors that open onto their own front gardens with access to ground floor streets and play areas. Apartments on higher levels are suitable for individuals and couples, each with its own private balcony.
Unit of different sizes are available for families, singles and couples. Image source
The Alexandra Road Estate is undeniably a large-scale development, but with an incredibly human element to its design, with an open environment full of open spaces where residents can meet and mingle, and visitors can wander through and take in its architectural genius.
The Buildner Affordable Housing Challenge series turns its attention to London, tasking participants with devising creative solutions to the complicated crisis in Britain’s capital in the London Affordable Housing Challenge.
The city’s property prices have increased at an exponential rate with no signs of stopping, making the act of buying a home a pipedream for all but the incredibly wealthy. As the latest in a series of architecture competitions inviting architecture enthusiasts from around the world to create solutions to the affordable housing crisis, Buildner are searching for innovative and adaptable designs that could be incorporated into London’s iconic skyline.
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