Alexandra Road Estate

With 1600 people in 520 dwellings, this 16 acre estate is visually impressive and one of Camden’s most ambitious. Local residents lobbied to preserve the old houses which prevented work from starting until 1972.

Likened to two large centipedes crawling in to the distance, its dramatic, tiered construction in white concrete - while not to everyone’s taste - was acknowledged by English Heritage with the granting of a Grade II* listing in 1993.

Rowley Way, NW8
Tube: Swiss Cottage

 

BT Tower

Formerly the Post Office Tower this is one of the most distinctive sights on the Camden skyline. Designed by Eric Bedford, the building was opened in 1965 and was heralded as a symbol of 20th Century Britain: lean, practical and futuristic.

Following a terrorist bomb explosion in the 1970s public access to the tower and its famous revolving restaurant gradually declined. Today the Tower is the corporate headquarters of BT and access to the Tower auditorium is by invitation only.

Howland Street, W1

The Great Court at the British Museum

Reinstating the 19th Century courtyard with the reading room at its centre, the Great Court enables huge numbers of visitors to circulate freely around the museum as well as bringing a leisurely ambience back to the site. The glazed canopy which makes this possible is a fusion of state-of-the-art engineering and economy of form. Foster & Partners’ Great Court is the largest enclosed public space in Europe.

Great Russell Street, WC1

Imagination

The dramatic refurbishment by Ron Herron Associates of an Edwardian school captures the innovative sprit of the Imagination design promotion company. From the street the building gives little away of the magnificent cleared space within, which is covered by a striking tent-like roof.

Store Street, WC1

ITN

The building, originally occupied by Times Newspapers, was transformed from darkness by the introduction of a huge atrium, soaring through ten storeys, to draw daylight down into the offices and basement. From the street the building’s original skeleton can be seen through its outer skin of glass. Designed by Foster & Partners.

Gray’s Inn Road, WC1

Kilburn State

Once one of the world’s largest theatres with an amazing capacity of 8000, the Gaumont State is now a successful Bingo Hall that retains many original features including one of the few Wurlitzer Organs working today. Designed by Gey George Coles the building opened in Dember 1937 with a grand opening concert featuring Gracie Fields, Larry Adler and George Formby.

197-199 Kilburn High Road, NW6
Tube: Kilburn

Isokon Building

Built in the 1930’s as a bold experiment in modernist design and communal high density living, the art deco Isokon building is being renovated by Notting Hill Housing Group. Described by one-time resident Agatha Christie as a ‘giant liner’, the Isokon looms up at you, a white concrete edifice in stark contrast to the swathes of Victorian red brick villas on the leafy streets around it.

Many of Wells Coates original features have been retained by Avanti Architects who have had to incorporate modern necessities such as a fridge, oven and washing machine.

Lawn Road, NW3
Tube: Belsize Park

St Pancras Chambers

In its Victorian heyday the Midland Grand Hotel above St Pancras Station, built by George Gilbert Scott, was one of the most opulent in London. However, by the 1930s the hotel’s facilities had become outdated and it was forced to close. It was then used as railway offices and renamed St Pancras Chambers.

During the 1960s the building was saved from demolition and given Grade I listed status in recognition of its importance as a great example of high Victorian Gothic architecture. At present there are plans to renovate the building as part of the wider development of King’s Cross in particular the opening of the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras Station.

Euston Road
Tube: King’s Cross or Euston

Swiss Cottage Central Library

Swiss Cottage Central Library opened in 1964. Designed by Sir Basil Spence it offered the best library facilities of the time. For its recent refurbishment, great care was taken by John McAslan and Partners to preserve the quality of the exterior and interior of the original building and to repair and restore it.

Glazed screens have been introduced around the central atrium to open up the library and reveal new facilities such as the gallery and café. Complimented by sympathetic new furniture and fittings, it is perhaps topped by artist Laura Ford’s design of the Children’s Library.

Avenue Road, NW3
Tube: Swiss Cottage

Open House Weekend

If you are visiting on the third weekend of September pick up a copy of the London Open House guide. This is the invaluable listings directory produced by London Open House detailing over 500 buildings (and featuring many architectural gems in Camden) that are especially opened for public view over the course of the weekend.

For more information visit www.londonopenhouse.org