Neave Brown, the celebrated Modernist architect received the 2018 Royal Gold Medal, the UK’s highest honour for architecture, on 2 October 2017.
Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence 'either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture'.
Awarded since 1848, past Royal Gold Medallists include Zaha Hadid (2016), Frank Gehry (2000), Norman Foster (1983), Frank Lloyd Wright (1941) and Sir George Gilbert Scott (1859).
Neave Brown, the revered Modernist architect, is perhaps best known for his visionary 1970s Alexandra Road estate near Swiss Cottage built by Camden Council. With its striking stepped concrete terraces and spacious flats, not only does it provide 500 homes but, in Neave's own words, it's 'a piece of city', containing shops, workshops, a community centre, special needs school, children's centre, a care home for young people with learning difficulties and a 16,000sq m public park.
Brown believes every home should have its own front door opening directly onto a network of routes and streets that make up a city, as well as its own private external space, open to the sky, in the form of a roof garden or terrace. Each of these qualities was incorporated by Brown at Alexandra Road.
Reacting to the news that he will receive the Royal Gold Medal in recognition for his lifetime's work, Neave Brown said:
"All my work! I got it just by flying blind, I seem to have been flying all my life. The Royal Gold Medal is entirely unexpected and overwhelming. It's recognition of the significance of my architecture, its quality and its current urgent social relevance. Marvellous!"
The first of Brown's seminal works, Winscombe Street, was built by a co-operative set up by Brown and his friends; the second and third, Fleet Road and Alexandra Road, by Camden council, to which Brown had been drawn by the leadership of Sydney Cook. All three have since been listed, either grade 2* or grade 2, making Brown the only living architect to have all their UK schemes listed.
In his citation for the Royal Gold Medal nomination, architectural historian and teacher Mark Swenarton said:
"At a time when the social dimension of architecture is receiving renewed attention, it is hard to think of anyone more fitting to receive the RIBA Royal Gold Medal 2018 than Neave Brown. Through his built works - and above all the acclaimed urban ensemble of Alexandra Road - Brown has provided a model of an architecture that is not just outstanding in its form but is thoroughly rooted both in the social relationships that it supports and in the urban tissue that it reinforces. Neave Brown stands for architecture in its fullest sense, as the creation of buildings and cities that are not just beautiful to behold but that also make our society a richer and better place in which to live."
RIBA President and Chair of the selection committee Ben Derbyshire said:
"The UK must now look back at Neave Brown's housing ideals and his innovative architecture as we strive to solve the great housing crisis. The Government must empower and then encourage every single council across the country to build a new generation of well-designed, affordable and sustainable homes that meet the needs of the millions of people currently failed by the housing market."