Thursday, 13 March 2008

Robin Hood Gardens

I've been interested in the buildings of Alison and Peter Smithson for some time -- possibly since I shared a flat with some architecture students in the 60s. So I decided it was time to see their first big project, Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, next to the Blackwall Tunnel.

Here's the story according to

"In the late 1960s, the Smithsons were given the opportunity to realise their vision of modern housing by designing an estate of 213 homes at Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, east London. They conceived it as a series of “streets in the sky” mixing single-storey apartments with two-storey maisonettes and including a wide balcony on every third floor which, they hoped, the residents would use for children’s play and chatting to neighbours like a traditional street. Sadly Robin Hood Gardens was plagued by structural flaws and a high crime rate. It was often derided as an example of modernist architectural folly rather than the role model for progressive social housing that Alison and Peter had hoped. Its failure dealt lasting damage to their reputation."

Concrete needs looking after and public housing needs to be well-managed. Neither has happened so the flats now look seedy. Not surprising there are moves to demolish them, and a campaign to save them. For more background see

But it's still easy to see that this was a magnificent project, and to understand how it was modelled on Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation. The way it curves is terrific.

The rest of my photos are on Flickr, under my Flickr name Utpictura. But there are much better images there too: search under Robin Hood Gardens and robinhoodgardens.

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