January 10, 2018
by Stefan Novakovic
Architect and artist Neave Brown died on January 9, at the age of 88. In a career spanning over five decades, the renowned Anglo-American architect was an instrumental figure in the modernist movement, and a committed defender of affordable, high-density — but relatively low-rise — housing.
Neave Brown receives the 2018 RIBA Gold Medal. Photo by Morley von Sternberg via RIBA
Born in Utica, New York in 1929, Brown completed his education at the Architectural Association in London, England, before launching his architectural career in 1950. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Brown pioneered innovative high-density affordable housing solutions on an international scale. In London, Brown’s Alexandra Road Estate remains one of the most influential projects of its era.
According to a statement by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), “Brown was perhaps best known for his visionary Alexandra Road estate built by London’s Camden Council in the 1970s. He believed every home should have its own front door opening directly on to the routes and streets that make up a city, as well as its own private external space, open to the sky in the form of a roof garden or terrace; each of these qualities was incorporated at Alexandra Road.”
Designed by Neave Brown in 1968, the Alexandra Road Estate remains one of the most influential projects of its era. Photo by Oxyman via Wikimedia Commons.
Retiring from architectural practice at the age of 73 to pursue a career in fine arts, Brown’s work has remained highly influential in the 21st century — particularly as the affordability of housing becomes a more pressing issue in urban centres. Earlier this year, Neave Brown was presented the Royal Gold Medal by RIBA.
In a tribute to Brown, RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said that “the architecture community has lost a giant. Neave was a pioneer: he showed us how intellectual rigour, sensitive urbanism, his supreme design skill and determination could deliver well-being to the local community he served so well in Camden. His ideas, for low-rise high-density housing with private outside space for all residents, still stand as a radical antidote to much of the unthinking, not to say degrading, housing product of the era.”