Metropolitan Workshop Architects and Jestico + Whiles have won the competition to design a replacement for Alison and Peter Smithson’s soon-to-be-demolished Robin Hood Gardens estate in Tower Hamlets
The practices were chosen from more than 30 entrants, including the likes of Mossessian & Partners and Studio Egret West, to land phase two of the £500 million Blackwall Reach Regeneration Project.
This stage will controversially see the Brutalist western block of the 1972 ‘streets in the sky’ council housing scheme flattened to make way for 239 new homes.
In a joint statement addressing the expected criticism from those who regard the Smithsons’ buildings as ‘iconic’ and adaptable to re-use, Metropolitan Workshop partner Neil Deely and Jestico + Whiles’ Eoin Keating said: ‘We respect, as others do, the Smithson’s legacy and what they have contributed to British architecture. We are aware of the campaign to save Robin Hood Gardens and have sympathy with those views.
‘[But] the buildings are now immune from listing, the project has planning approval to proceed and the first phase is under way, there seems little point in looking backwards. The local residents and the local authority desperately want improvements at Blackwall Reach and these voices should not be disregarded.’
The team said the project tackled some ‘very challenging urban environments created over the past 50 years’ and offered a ‘major opportunity to repair some of the physical and social isolation caused by the late 20th century’.
Chosen by project backers, Swan Housing Association, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Greater London Authority (GLA), the duo will also review and ‘refine’ the entire Horden Cherry Lee and Aedas-designed masterplan for the wider 7.7-hectare site, which won outline planning in March 2012.
In addition, the development team has appointed Karakusevic Carson to deliver phase 1b of the scheme, which includes 245 mostly private homes.
In 2008 then architecture minister Margaret Hodge refused to list the Smithsons’ buildings, agreeing with English Heritage that the concrete housing estate was not a fit place for people to live in.