4: Alexandra Road estate, Kilburn

Dating from the late 1960s, the Alexandra Road estate is the latest of the group of five sites I have chosen and was designed by the Architect’s Department of Camden Borough. It places pedestrians at the heart of its design, and provides ample leisure space despite residents being accommodated at high population density.

However, in spite of the great effort made to improve the lot of residents, the estate is a peculiarly challenging place in which to live. The main pedestrian throughfare is narrow and claustrophobic, the car parks underneath can be frightening, the steps up to upper-level flats are narrow, steep and unwelcoming, brutal service installations erupt and intrude in prominent positions and the main park in between the rows of apartments is a sinister maze of zig-zag walls, dark passageways and seeming dead-ends.

Rationally, it is a triumph of design; instinctively, it can be a very frightening place in which to live, a place which bears little relation to the demands of daily urban living.

Rowley Way, Alexandra Road
Rowley Way, the main pedestrian path through the estate.

Alexandra Road
An enigmatic well in an upper deck.

Alexandra Road
A playground in the park.

Alexandra Road
A bunker-like lodge house.

Alexandra Road
Zig-zag pathways deep in the park.

Alexandra RoadAlexandra Road
The heart of the unintentional maze at the centre of the park.

Below, I give a possible re-interpretation, suggesting that the two main rows of apartments can, in fact, be seen as trench lines, with a battle zone in between, a strange, mazy no-man’s land of trenches, dead ends, bunkers and craters.
Alexandra Road map

And here is the possible source of its inspiration, a trench map from the Somme.
Alexandra Road original trench map