Exceptional London Council Housing Architecture

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

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.

London Affordable Housing Challenge

The Bee Breeders 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, Bee Breeders are searching for innovative and adaptable designs that could be incorporated into London’s iconic skyline.

Open architecture competitions

  • Closest Deadline first
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    Selected winning projects have the potential to be constructed
  • Ideas competitions first
    Experimental competitions with the focus on pushing the boundaries of creativity
ideas COMPETITION
The Last Nuclear Bomb Memorial

Design a memorial that speaks to the cause of ending all nuclear weapons programs

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 15
Jan 27
Apr 21
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ideas COMPETITION
Toronto Affordable Housing Challenge

Design affordable housing solutions for Toronto

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 16
Jan 28
Apr 22
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project COMPETITION
Omuli Museum of the Horse

Reimagine a historical primary school into a museum for horses

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

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Dec 14
Jan 26
Apr 23
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ideas COMPETITION
SKYHIVE 2021 Skyscraper Challenge

Fourth annual competition to redefine the modern-day skyscraper

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

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Dec 17
Jan 29
Apr 23
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project COMPETITION
Sleeping Pods on a Cliff

Design a series of sleeping pods for a Portugal yoga retreat

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 18
Feb 01
Apr 27
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project COMPETITION
Tiny Kiwi Meditation Cabin

Design a meditation space in New Zealand

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
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Dec 21
Feb 02
Apr 28
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project COMPETITION
Spirala Community Home

Create a community home for the Spirala Ecological Village

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
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Dec 22
Feb 03
Apr 29
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ideas COMPETITION
Berlin Techno Booth

Bring back techno music to the streets of Berlin by designing individual dance booths

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
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Mar 23
Apr 20
Jul 06
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ideas COMPETITION
Modular Home Design Challenge 2021

Design a modular dream home

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

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Mar 24
Apr 21
Jul 07
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essay COMPETITION
Essay: Modular Architecture

How modular design has impacted architecture?

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Apr 22
Jul 08
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Hospice - Home for Terminally Ill

Design a safe and supportive space for those struggling with a terminal illness

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
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Mar 30
Apr 27
Jul 13
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project COMPETITION
Romantic Cabin For Two

Design a romantic and secluded cabin for two in New Zealand

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Mar 31
Apr 28
Jul 14
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project COMPETITION
Monte d'Oiro Wine Hotel

Design a new hotel set within a beautiful Portuguese Monte d'Oiro vineyard

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
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Jul 15
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essay COMPETITION
Essay: Architecture of Illusions

Do you have something to say about illusions in architecture?

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
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Apr 30
Jul 16
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MICROHOME 2021 - Small living, huge impact!

Design a new concept of small-scale architecture

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN MAGAZINE
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Sep 07
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project COMPETITION
Legendary Bird Home 2021

Design a bird home to fund wildlife charities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PRODUCTION
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Sep 07
Nov 02
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