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Neave Brown awarded 2018 Royal Gold Medal by RIBA

United States - Sep 28, 2017 - 14:05   5015 views

American architect Neave Brown has been named as the 2018 laureate of Royal Gold Medal for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) - the award is presented as the UK’s highest honour for architecture. Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence 'either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture'.

The RIBA described Neave Brown as "a pioneer of quality public housing", and Brown, the revered modernist architect - is best known for his visionary 1970s Alexandra Road estate near Swiss Cottage built by Camden Council.

Designed in 1968 by Neave Brown of Camden Council's Architects Department, this multi-family, 8-storey council housing estate, properly known as the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate, was built between 1972 and 1979. Image © RIBA Collections

"All my work! I got it just by flying blind, I seem to have been flying all my life," said Neave Brown, reacting to the news that he will receive the Royal Gold Medal in recognition for his lifetime’s work.

"The Royal Gold Medal is entirely unexpected and overwhelming. It’s a recognition of the significance of my architecture, its quality and its current urgent social relevance. Marvellous!"

Neave Brown was born in Utica, New York State in 1929 and was educated in the USA and at the Architectural Association in London. Brown is the only living architect to have all their UK work listed.

Housing, Winscombe Street, Camden, London. Image © Martin Charles / RIBA Collections. This group of five houses, designed by Neave Brown, included his own house, which is shown here.

"With its striking stepped concrete terraces and spacious flats, not only does it provide 500 homes but in Neave’s own words, it’s "a piece of city", containing shops, workshops, a community centre, special needs school, children’s centre, a care home for young people with learning difficulties and a 16,000sq m public park," stated in a press release published by RIBA.

Brown believes every home should have its own front door opening directly on to a network of 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 by Brown at Alexandra Road.

22-32 Winscombe Street is comprised of a row of 5 terraced homes, designed as a private co-housing project for Brown and his friends. Winscombe Street was financially backed by the London Borough of Camden, as a prototype for the much larger public housing schemes Brown went on to design when he joined Camden Council’s architects department.

These hugely influential 'upside-down' houses placed the living space upstairs to maximise light, with self-contained, flexible rooms on the ground floor with direct access to private gardens. Brown lived in Winscombe Street for 40 years before moving to Fleet Road, another of his schemes.

Dunboyne Estate, Fleet Road, Camden, London: west elevation of the the east block. Image © Martin Charles / RIBA Collections. Although this estate was designed in 1967, it wasn't completed until 1978.

22-32 Winscombe Street in Dartmouth Park, north London built in 1965 and Dunboyne Road estate (Fleet Road), near Gospel Oak, north London built in 1975 are another major projects of Neave Brown. Both projects have received Grade II status by public body Historic England.

Dunboyne Road estate consists of 71 maisonettes and flats, a shop and studio built for the London Borough of Camden. Fleet Road was the UK's first high density low-rise scheme; here Brown reinvented the traditional Victorian London terrace as two and three-storey blocks that run in parallel rows with a central pedestrian walkway. Care was taken to preserve its scale and intimacy, and to create light-filled homes, each with their own private terrace and a shared garden.

"I’m delighted to announce Neave Brown will receive the 2018 Royal Gold Medal. Neave’s contribution to the development of modern British housing is profound, inspiring to architects, local authorities and those who have benefitted from living in one of his outstanding projects," said RIBA President and Chair of the Selection Committee Ben Derbyshire.

"His pioneering ideas firmly placed the community at the heart of each of his developments, giving residents shared gardens, their own front door, innovative flexible living spaces and private outside space for every home."

Alexandra Road Estate, Camden, London: close-up of an end of terrace. Image © Eric Firley / RIBA Collections. Designed in 1968 by Neave Brown of Camden Council's Architects Department, this multi-family, 8-storey council housing estate, properly known as the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate, was built between 1972 and 1979.

"The UK must now look back at Neave Brown’s housing ideals and his innovative architecture as we strive to solve the great housing crisis. The Government must empower and then encourage every single Council across the country to build a new generation of well-designed, affordable and sustainable homes that meet the needs of the millions of people currently failed by the housing market," added Ben Derbyshire.

"We need to build 300,000 new homes per year for the foreseeable future to tackle this crisis: a radical programme of mass council homes, inspired by Neave Brown’s work, must be part of the solution."

The 2018 Royal Gold Medal Selection Committee comprises RIBA President Ben Derbyshire (Chair), Edward Cullinan, former Royal Gold Medal recipient, Canny Ash architect, Sarah Wigglesworth, architect and Lady Jill Ritblat, patron of the arts.

Neave Brown will be receiving the 2018 Royal Gold Medal at a private ceremony at the RIBA on Monday 2 October 2017. Last year, Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes de Rocha was awarded the 2017 Royal Gold Medal. Previous winners include Zaha Hadid, Peter Zumthor, David Chipperfield and Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey.

Top image: Neave Brown © Garath Gardner

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