Brown, Neave (14 of 19). National  Life Story Collection: Architects' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2013-12-07, 2013-12-14, 2014-02-08, 2014-03-08, 2014-03-15, 2014-03-29, 2014-04-26, 2014-07-27, 2014-08-10, 2014-08-17, 2014-12-06

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, London

  • Interviewees

    Brown, Neave (1929-) (speaker,  male)

  • Interviewers

    Franklin, Geraint (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 14: Preliminary remarks on Richard MacCormac [1938-2014] and others. [00:03:56] Account of construction of Alexandra Road. Quantity surveyor Neil Kenworthy [NK] of Monk and Dunstan suggested two-stage tendering. Construction phased for most economic process. Selection of McInerney [Thomas Mclnerney and Sons Ltd] as contractor. Delay after public enquiry over Boundary Road closures. Concrete work subcontracted to Formcrete, who suggested different order of construction. Construction of roof of special school changed from timber to concrete. [00:10:20] Description of the architectural design of ‘A’ and ‘B’ blocks of Alexandra Road. Redesign of foundations of school. Decision to accept contractors’ advice. [00:19:56] Request for additional staff for contract management turned down by Camden. Workloads of project team. Description of foundation design of ‘A’ and ‘B’ blocks. Problems with colour of white concrete after use of pinkish aggregate. Subsoil geology made redesign of ‘B’ block foundations necessary. [00:31:00] Description of construction of foundations around Victorian main sewer. Severe downpour caused exposed sewer to burst. [00:39:30] Three different types of concrete for structure, heated cross walls and surfaces. Remarks on construction process. Bespoke elements worked out cheaper than mass-produced components. Prefabricated construction of staircases and kitchen joinery. [00:45:39] Remarks on cost increases and delays, caused by inflation and crisis in construction industry. Changes in construction contract to absorb costs. Increased labour costs during that period. [00:49:36] Anecdote of Alexandra Road bicycle race. Mentions McInerney personnel, including managing director [T.P.] Bugler, project manager Pat O’Brian. 3,000 drawings received by McInerney. NB’s collaboration with McInerney. Story of projecting walkway. Mentions Graeme Frost’s work on roof of special school. [00:58:22] Housing completed to Parker Morris standards including full dwelling central heating. Consequence of partial heating of dwellings. Design of heating with building services engineer Max Fordham. Rejection of under-floor heating and incorporation of heating coils in alternating cross walls [mic distortion at 01:01:23–01:01:37]. [01:02:08] Change of Camden Council from Conservative to Labour and new Director of Housing, unsympathetic to Alexandra Road development. Decision to hold public enquiry before completion of building. Description of disputes with Camden councillors and housing department. Dispute over protection of lift shaft. [01:13:12] Completion of Alexandra Road [cough at 01:14:16]. Initial problems with heating systems; Camden council discounted tenants’ heating bills. Remarks on public enquiry, eventually conducted by National Building Agency. Refers to article by Mark Swenarton [‘Politics versus architecture: the Alexandra Road public enquiry of 1978–1981’, in Planning Perspectives, 2014]. Mentions [Councillor Julian] Fulbrook, chairman of Housing Management Committee]. Establishment of informal Alexandra Road Committee to counter arguments against the estate. [01:19:35] NB prevented from communicating with GLC architects designing neighbouring Boundary Road housing estate; liaison with councillor Bill Budd. NB’s proposal of community centre to be shared between the two estates; story of residents’ meeting. Residents’ objections to children playing on sloping roof. [01:25:21] Description of maintenance regime initially agreed, including cleaning, staining of windows, lighting and painting of rendered elements. Lack of maintenance. Residents’ competition for best kept planting trough. Use of central walkway by residents and pedestrians crossing estate. Difficulties in gaining work after Alexandra Road; mentions with JS and Peter Smithson.

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