Modernist gem restored for community use
The gardens of North London’s Grade II*-Listed Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate have reopened following a two-year £1.5m restoration.
Alexandra Road Park was designed and built in the late 1970s but had been neglected for decades. The original design, by landscape architect Janet Jack, divided the 1.7ha strip into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’ using bold diagonal paths that cut across the narrow strip of space. Within these rooms were playgrounds (long since removed), open grassy areas and intimate sunken gardens. Ramps and walls, already incorporated into architect Neave Brown’s plan for the Camden Council housing, helped create a three-dimensional landscape, with views out across the park from raised gardens and plazas.
Planting included evergreen and deciduous, flowering and fruiting shrubs with a backing of trees to create a dense backdrop of foliage to offset the large scale of the housing and shelter the urban rooms.
J & L Gibbons Landscape Architects and Erect Architecture worked closely with Jack for the park restoration, at the same time liaising with the tenants' and residents' associations and the Friends of Alexandra Road Park to ensure community needs were met. The original park landscapes and planting have been restored, biodiversity and access improved across the site, and playgrounds updated and reinstated.
‘The opportunity to consult with the original designer, Janet Jack, enriched the whole design process for us,’ said Neil Davidson, partner at J & L Gibbons. ‘We were able to review where things had not worked previously and to discuss opportunities to conserve and enhance elements that make Alexandra Road Park unique in the context of Modernist public housing developments, on a global stage.
‘We then developed proposals that respected the original design and introduced new layers of intervention, which included more complex playable landscapes, biodiverse habitats and a management strategy that will ensure the park can be enjoyed by future generations.’
Work, for Camden Council, was funded by a grant from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.