Rowley Way in Camden, North West London is home to perhaps the best surviving example of Brutalist architecture in the whole of London, if not the UK. A low rise housing estate that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie, Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate is (depending on your opinion) is either a beautiful brutalist blueprint or a colossal concrete carbuncle.
Purely for the aesthetics, we think Rowley Way is stunningly unique with its concrete block symmetry and fantastic facades and lush linear angles at every turn – we aren’t quite sure what the apartments are like to live in, but from the outside, it is a fascinating place to walk around, like no other housing estate we’ve visited.
Rowley Way’s brutalist estate received a Grade II listed status in 1993, meaning this 1970’s experiment in a new type of self contained housing estate is protected and as with the Barbican estate, has become an example of how community inner city living can work well when residents band together, making it a desirable and central place to live in London.
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London’s most iconic Brutalist Estate
We’ve visited a lot of brutalist buildings and estates in London, from the far out reaches of the Thamesmead Estate (as featured in Stanley Kubrick’s film version of ‘A Clockwork Orange) to the amazing inner workings of the Barbican and Golden Lane estates in central London. That said, there is nowhere else like Rowley Way so if you only want to visit one Brutalist location, this would be the best of them all.
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Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate – Brutalist History
Comprising over 500 apartments in two low rise parallel sections, the estate was completed in the late 1970s, designed by architect Neave Brown with the desire to create a self contained estate with a school, youth centre, park and shops all on the same estate (although all the shops were boarded up when we visited).
Rowley Way layout
The Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate consists of a trio of parallel blocks of flats, all comprising several levels of apartments with balconies facing towards the central walkway that leads from one end of the estate to the other. Parts of the estate are very low rise, whilst others go up to 8 stories high.
Amazingly, given its close proximity to several rail lines, parts of the housing estate have rubber pads in their foundations to minimise noise from the tracks below.
The best viewing point on the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate
To get the best view (maybe the ‘most brutal’) head to the east end of the estate / Rowley Way and climb up the stairs by the boarded up shops to get an almost symmetrical view from the first floor viewing platform, where many locals lock up their bicycles.
Can I Wander Around the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate?
Yes, you can walk around the estate freely but remember that it is a housing estate so please be respectful of people’s privacy and homes. You can walk around the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate freely but remember it is quite a small and enclosed community so respect the resident’s privacy and refrain from getting in people’s way. We also have only visited during the daytime, so can’t vouch for how safe the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate is at night.
Movies Filmed at Alexandra and Ainsworth Road Estate
Due to its unique look and feel, Rowley Road has been used as a filming location for several high profile films, TV series and music videos including Kingsman: The Secret Service starring Taron Egerton and Colin Firth (as the estate Eggsy lives on) and Breaking and Entering starring Jude Law, as well as TV shows Prime Suspect, Hard Sun and Electric Dreams.
Travelling to Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate / Nearest Tube
If you’re travelling by public transport, the best way to get to Rowley Way is to get the Overground to South Hampstead station – it is then just a couple of minutes walk. Alternatively, get the Jubilee Underground line to Swiss Cottage station and then take the 10 minute / 0.5 mile walk.
More London blog posts
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- Guide to Maltby Street Market in London
- Columbia Road Flower Market, London – a complete guide
- Old Spitalfields Market in East London – travel guide
- The best day trips from London by train
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