Top 10 Concrete Crushes
Ahead of Open House London 2017, where 68 of Camden's exceptional buildings will be opening their doors to the public for architectural tours, we asked Modernist architecture aficionado Peter Chadwick, creator of This Brutal House blog and author of This Brutal World, to talk us through his pick of Camden's best brutal buildings...
My Top 10 Concrete Crushes, by Peter Chadwick
Camden is blessed with some of the most innovative and groundbreaking post war architecture (particularly housing estates) in the country. From Centrepoint in the south of the borough to a wonderful selection of housing estates and private houses in Hampstead in the boroughs Northern reaches. No matter where you find yourself in Camden you are never far from another wonderful Modernist building. It was difficult choosing just 10 buildings, I had to be BRUTAL with my choices and decided to pick my personal favourites.
So this is my Top 10 Camden ‘Concrete Crushes’.
1. Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate
The Rowley as locals and residents call it is one of my favourite buildings in London. The challenging hard concrete exterior gives way to a soft Utopian interior as you walk down Rowley Way which is flanked by the 2 large curved blocks of the estate. Designed in 1968 by Neave Brown of Camden Council's Architects Department. Construction work commenced in 1972 and was completed in 1978. I call it ‘Brutalism Royalty’.
2. 78 South Hill Park
This little known Brutalist gem is definitely worth a visit. This private house can be found nestling in a Victorian terrace that backs onto Hampstead Heath No.1 pond.
Designed by architect Brian Housden and built between 1963-65. The exterior of the building is a wonderful mix of geometric raw concrete and square glass lenses that offers glimpses of the interior inside.
3. 1-3 Willow Road
Completed in 1939 by one of my architectural heroes Ernő Goldfinger. The man responsible for Trellick and Balfron Towers built this building in Willow Road as home for himself. It was strongly opposed by local resident Ian Fleming. Which legend has it, became the inspiration for the Bond film ‘Goldfinger’.
4. Whittington Estate
This wonderful estate backs onto Highgate cemetery was designed and built between 1972-79 by architects Peter Tábori and Ken Adie. This once unloved estate is now thankfully having a renaissance, with it now being seen as sought after Modernist address.
This is another building I just had to include in my Top 10. Built in 1934 by the architect Wells Coates, Isokon is now quite rightly grade 1 listed. it became a magnet for artists and professionals alike where Agatha Christie could be found living next to Bauhaus designers and Soviet spies. A truly wonderful building to admire and cherish.
6. UCL Institute of Education
This magnificent unapologetic building on Bedford Way, Bloomsbury was designed by the Brutalist master Denys Lasdun. Planned and built in the 1960s, only part of the original design was built. It has in my opinion one of the finest concrete staircases in London.
Once loathed by many, now cherished by more. This Modernist classic is getting a long overdue wash and brush up. Centrepoint was designed and built between 1963 and 1969 by the Modernist master Richard Seifert. When I first moved to London, if I ever got lost in the centre of town I would always look for this 33 storey high building as a point of reference to help me find my way home.
8. BT Tower
Designed in the 1960s by the architect Eric Bedford. The tower formerly known as Post Office (a name I still prefer). Despite it looking decidedly lost without its trademark dishes, the tower endures long after its 50th Birthday. Grade II listed in 2003, this futuristic symbol of London now feels very much like an elder states person on the London skyline. I never did manage to persuade my mum (who suffers from vertigo) to have a meal in the now closed rotating restaurant on one of my first visits to London.
9. Canal side homes behind Sainsburys, Camden
No, not modernist or Brutalist, this building is from the High-tech movement. I have always been a fan of these Nicholas Grimshaw designed canal side homes. Built in the late 1980s, are situated behind the Camden Road Sainsburys. These now listed space aged metal clad dwellings are best seen from the Regents Canal towpath.
10. Euston Tower
I have always had a soft spot for this towering beast on Euston Road. Despite its size, on a Winters day it will merge and disappear into a grey London sky, however if you pass it on a wonderfully sunny day whatever the time of year this building positively jumps out at you. Bold and unapologetic, the Euston tower was completed in 1970 by Eric Firmin & Partners and Sidney Kaye.
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All photography by Peter Chadwick / This Brutal House