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Brutal Day Out

On Saturday I joined some fellow brutal architecture fans for a Brutal Day Out exploring some of London’s finest concrete gems – Swiss Cottage Library, Centre Heights, Abbey Road Estate and Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate. The weather may not have been completely on our side, but we persevered and didn’t let the occasional downpour dampen our spirits – in fact in some ways the rain helped bring out the character of the concrete.

This is the second time I’ve joined these organised days out and it’s so great to meet people who also appreciate this architecture and want to take time to enjoy their architectural details properly, take some photos and round off the day with a drink or two in a local pub. It’s also a great excuse for me to explore a part of London that I don’t know that well.

Swiss Cottage Library

I’ve been to the Swiss Cottage area before and how I’d not spotted the library before I don’t know. Outside it was typical brutalism, with a curved shape and a lovely large canopy outside the main entrance. Inside is an expansive modernist and minimalist space, with sweeping spiral staircases taking you up to circular foyers from which you can look down on the floor below.

Apparently it was designed to look like an open book and in 2023 it underwent a low-carbon retrofit, making it more efficient, all whilst remaining open to the public. If this was my local library I’d happily spend hours exploring the shelves before finding a spot to relax with a good book.

Centre Heights

We then crossed the roads to take in Centre Heights, a mixed purpose complex over 13 floors, before heading down for a look at the remaining tower blocks of the Abbey Estate.

Abbey Road Estate

Our final destination of the day was the infamous Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, the first post-war council housing estate to be granted listed status in 1993. Containing over 500 apartments, it is often suggested to be the the best brutalist example in London.

I’ve visited the estate before and photography is not appreciated by a number of the residents, but it’s too great an example of brutalist architecture to resist. One day I hope to be able to see inside one of the apartments.

Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate

Our day ended at the nearby Priory Tavern before numbers slowly dwindled and it was time to head back down south.

More photos from the day can be seen here.

I sadly can’t make the next Brutal Day Out in Manchester on 16 March but I’m looking forward to exploring Croydon on 20 April.

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