Neave Brown, English architect and outspoken proponent of low-rise, high-density public housing, has died at age 88 on January 9th. A New York native, Brown left permanently for London to study at the Architectural Association in the mid-1950’s. Known for his work in concrete, Brown’s open, stepped post-war developments demonstrated that high-quality, mass public housing was possible on the scale of London’s existing Victorian row houses.
Brown is the only architect to have all of his UK projects listed, a protected status in which a building may not be demolished, expanded, or altered without express permission from the local planning authority. These projects include Dartmouth Park, the Dunboyne Road Estate, and the Alexandra Road Estate, the 1968 brutalist housing complex for which he is perhaps best known.
Despite retiring in 2002, Brown’s work has continued to be recognized. Only two months ago, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awarded Brown the 2018 Royal Gold Medal, acknowledging his lifetime of achievement in architecture. Advocating for a “social housing” model that emphasized communal living and fostering interaction between neighbors, Brown was vocally opposed to high-rise public estates. With the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy and demolition of Robin Hood Gardens fresh in the public’s mind, Brown had been scheduled to host a debate on social housing in February later this year.