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Cook's Camden: An Exhibition

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An exhibition exploring the acclaimed housing built by Camden when Sydney Cook was Borough Architect 1965-1973 has been announced by Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre. It is curated by Professor Mark Swenarton, emeritus professor of architecture at University of Liverpool and author of our book Cook’s Camden: The Making of Modern Housing (2017).

Alexandra Road, pedestrian bridge leading north to block A, with main plaza to left and vehicle court to right. ©Tim Crocker

The exhibition showcases what has been described as ‘probably the best housing ever built in Britain’ (Owen Hatherley). Running from 5 February-27 April 2018 it presents new colour photographs by Tim Crocker specially taken for the book, as well as original black and white photographs taken in the 1970s by Martin Charles and newly prepared drawings. The exhibition is designed by Stefi Orazi who also designed the Cook’s Camden book.

The housing projects built in Camden in the 1960s and 1970s when Sydney Cook was borough architect are widely regarded as the most important urban housing built in the UK in the past 100 years. Cook recruited some of the brightest talent available in London at the time and the schemes – which included Alexandra Road, Branch Hill, Fleet Road, Highgate New Town and Maiden Lane – set out a model of housing that continues to command interest and admiration from architects to this day.

Fleet Road, overview of communal garden, with car parking beneath. ©Tim Crocker

The exhibition focuses on the schemes by Neave Brown (recipient of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal for Architecture 2018), Benson & Forsyth and Peter Tábori. The Camden projects represented a new type of urban housing based on a return to streets with front doors. In place of tower blocks, the Camden architects showed how the required densities could be achieved without building high, creating a new kind of urbanism that integrated with, rather than broke from, its cultural and physical context.

Mark Swenarton is an architectural historian, critic and educator and is emeritus professor of architecture at Liverpool University. His book Cook’s Camden: The Making of Modern Housing (Lund Humphries 2017) was described as ‘superb’ by Edwin Heathcote in the Financial Times. 

Event information: 
Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre 2nd Floor, Holborn Library 32-38 Theobalds Road London WC1X 8PA
Dates: 5 February to 27 April 2018.
(Mon 10-6 Tues 10-6 Thurs 10-7 Fri 10-5 Alternate Sat 11-5).
Free admission.

Mark Swenarton will give an illustrated talk on Cook’s Camden at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre on Tuesday 6 March 2018, 7.15pm (doors open 6.45, admission free). 

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