Nevae Brown Royal Gold Medal photo
Photography: Morley von Sternberg via RIBA

Social housing pioneer Neave Brown has died at the age of 88 after losing his battle with cancer.

The architect – who finally got the recognition he deserved when he was awarded the 2018 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for his contribution to ‘quality public housing’ – was born in New York’s Utica in 1929. He emigrated to the UK as a teenager, and is best known for his project with London’s Camden Council, including the Alexandra Road and Dunboyne Road Estates, and Dartmouth Park.

Alexandra Estate, designed by Neave Brown. Photography: Courtesy of The Modern House

‘The architecture community has lost a giant,’ said Ben Derbyshire, president of RIBA. ‘Neave was a pioneer: he showed us how intellectual rigour, sensitive urbanism, his supreme design skill and determination could deliver well-being to the local community he served so well in Camden.’

Added Derbyshire: ‘His ideas, for low-rise high-density housing with private outside space for all residents, still stand as a radical antidote to much of the unthinking, not to say degrading, housing product of the era.’

Brown was the first architect to have all of his UK projects listed in 2014, and was a staunch advocate for progressive, high-quality social housing.

Neave Brown brutalism
Photography: Cian Oba-Smith

Speaking to Dezeen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Brown said that poor quality social housing was ‘probably England’s most massive major social problem’.

He called on the UK government to develop new public housing programmes, severed under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, and warned that ‘high buildings should only be used for the very rich, because they’re the only ones that can be done with proper lifts, proper services, proper control, proper entrances and the proper environment’.

Architects, designers and writers have taken to Twitter to express their tributes to Brown, who was due to host a debate about social housing with architecture critic Olly Wainwright on 1 February at RIBA in London.

Read next: Explore the Modernist legacy of Neave Brown

Commissioning editor at The Spaces.

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