Building Camden

Celebrating Camden Council's Social Housing

Camden’s rich architectural heritage is an important part of its cultural identity and a visual testament to its history. Not only the Georgian squares, Victorian villas and neo classical museums but, importantly, the innovative public housing schemes which provided affordable housing to generations of people throughout the borough. The history of this housing and why it was needed; to improve people’s health, economic prospects and life chances, is as relevant today as it was throughout the 1800s and 1900s, when most of this housing was built.

Camden Alive is actively making art to celebrate residents in ten different housing schemes across the borough. They were built between 1900 and 1983, mainly by the Metropolitan boroughs of St Pancras, Holborn and Hampstead.  Larger, more architecturally ambitious programmes (such as Alexandra & Ainsworth, the Brunswick Centre and Maiden Lane) were undertaken after the three boroughs were combined in 1965 and became the London Borough of Camden.

Camden inherited major housing problems from all three boroughs, but in 1965 the newly elected Labour Council were determined to put the new borough on the map as leaders in both housing provision and urban planning. They had the commitment and finance to invest in existing redevelopments and maintenance programmes and also implement an innovative, radical approach to social housing.  Under the imaginative leadership of Sydney Cook, the borough architect, with the visionary talent of young architects such as Neave Brown, Camden Council implemented a policy of providing well-built public housing that people could take pleasure in living in.

Despite changes in central government policy in the 1980s and the drive for home ownership, Camden continued its commitment to the provision of municipal housing. The Camden Alive neighbourhoods featured here represent a reflection of the ways the borough has responded to the social, political, cultural, economic and environmental changes that have impacted on the continuing need for good quality affordable housing for the majority of its residents.

The planning, designing and building of these homes are often well documented, photographed, recorded and commented upon but the lives of the thousands of people who have lived in them, and still do, often go unrecorded.

We would like to hear your stories! See here for ways to join in:

Image credit: Alexandra and Ainsworth, 1978. © Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre