Demolition work has begun at the Blackwall Reach Regeneration Project in Tower Hamlets. The project aims to create more than 1, 500 new homes, as well as a new school building and green spaces.
Part of the regeneration project is the demolition of Robin Hood Gardens, a social housing complex built in 1972, and designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. The architect couple, famous for coining the term “brutalist architecture”, are known most for their post-war architecture and are responsible for buildings such as The Economist Building in central London.
Since Tower Hamlets council first announced plans to demolish the building in 2008 a number of prominent architects, including the well-known architect of the London Aquatic Centre, Zaha Hadid, have argued against the proposal saying it should be saved due to its iconic design. An online petition in the magazine Building Design was set up to try and get the building listed and preserved.
At the same time a consultation made by Tower Hamlets council in 2008 concluded that 75 percent of the residents in Robin Hood Gardens wanted demolition.
East London Lines went to Robin Hood Gardens to survey opinions.
Local resident Samina, 45, has only lived one year in Robin Hood Gardens. She moved in after having spent 8 years struggling to find somewhere to live. “Finally I have found a place where I can have my own life and privacy and now I am worried about where I have to go”.
10 year-old Mohair however is already looking forward to moving into the new building: “It’s all old and not that good. The walls are ripped and stuff. It’s going to be all new and that’s good.”
Steve Parnell, architectural critic and lecturer at the University of Nottingham, spoke to East London Lines about the Smithsons and the design of Robin Hood Gardens.
He said the building shouldn’t be preserved purely for its architectural value, but that “a good architect could do a good job” in adapting it for the 21st century.
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Reporting by: Julie Thing and Sean Mullervy.