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Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate – Brutalist London Architecture

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Looking for the best example of Brutalist London architecture to visit? Look no further than the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate (AKA Rowley Way, in Camden, northwest London).

A low rise London housing estate that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie, Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate is brutalism London at its finest (or if you aren’t a fan of Brutalism, maybe a concrete carbuncle).

Purely for the aesthetics, the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate in Rowley Way Camden is stunningly unique with its concrete block symmetry, fantastic facades and lush linear angles at every turn. The best example of a Brutalist London housing estate.

Here is our guide to visiting the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate in London, the best example of residential brutalist architecture London (2023):

Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate - Rowley Way Brutalist Estate in London

Brutalist London – a quick history of Brutalist architecture

Brutalist architecture first came about in the post war 1950s, emerging from the earlier modernist movement at the turn of the century.

Brutalist London architecture is generally characterised by their geometric and symmetrical shapes and minimalist aesthetics that showcase the building structure (usually concrete) over design and extravagant stylings.

In summary brutalist London buildings are a ‘bit blocky’.

Some of the best examples of London brutalist architecture include Trellick Tower, Thamesmead, the Brunswick Centre and the Hayward Gallery on South Bank.

Read our guide to the best brutalist London architecture and buildings here >

Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate - Rowley Way Brutalist Estate in London

Listed London Brutalism

The Alexandra and Ainsworth (AKA Rowley Way) brutalist housing estate in London received a Grade II listed status in 1993. It means this 1970’s experiment in a new type of self contained housing estate (Brualist) is protected.

As with the Barbican estate, the Alexandra and Ainsworth brutalist 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.

London’s most iconic Brutalist Estate

We’ve visited a lot of brutalist London architecture buildings and estates, 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 the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate / Rowley Way so if you only want to visit one Brutalist London location, this would be the best Brutalism example.

Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate - Rowley Way Brutalist Estate in London

YOU MIGHT LIKE – the best Brutalist buildings in London >

Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate – Brutalist History

Comprising over 500 apartments in two low rise parallel sections, the Alexandra and Ainsworth 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 in Rowley Way when we visited).

Rowley Way layout

The Alexandra and Ainsworth brutalist 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 Alexandra and Ainsworth housing estate have rubber pads in their foundations to minimise noise from the tracks below – pretty ‘brutal’!

Rowley Way Brutalist Estate in London - visiting the Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate

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 Alexandra and Ainsworth estate residents lock up their bicycles.

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Walking around the Estate

You can walk around the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate freely but remember that it is a housing estate (and most importantly these are people’s homes and private spaces) so please be respectful when visiting

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 & Ainsworth Estate / Nearest Tube

If you’re travelling by public transport, the best way to get to Alexandra and Ainsworth estate is to take the Overground to South Hampstead Overground 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.

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