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C20 Society 'deeply disappointed' by Robin Hood Gardens decision

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The Twentieth Century Society has said it is ‘deeply disappointed’ by the decision to hand Robin Hood Gardens another certificate of immunity from listing

Earlier today (4 August) the society learned its campaign to get statutory protection for the Alison and Peter Smithson-designed Brutalist blocks in east London had failed after it emerged heritage minister Tracey Crouch was set to approve a second certificate of immunity.

The decision will guarantee the ‘streets in the sky’ estate cannot be considered again for by listing in the next five years.

The society’s director, Catherine Croft, said: ‘This historic development, designed by two of most influential and important twentieth century architects in Britain, should be kept for future generations and imaginatively refurbished - not demolished.  Much has changed in terms of attitudes to post war housing since Tower Hamlets first proposed demolishing Robin Hood Gardens.’

She added: ‘Listing would have allowed fresh analysis in the light of these changes.’

The society launched a new bid to list the 1970s estate late last year after the original certificate of immunity ran out in 2014. The campaign backed by a host of big name architects including Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.

Responding to the news, campaign supporter Will Alsop said: ‘Historic England is entitled to its opinion but Alison and Peter Smithson did not build very much in this country so it should be kept.

‘With a bit of loving care and the landscape around it being sorted out it could be restored. I only hope someone will see sense but I doubt that will happen.’

Ted Cullinan, added: ‘It is sad - it is not very caring. It is an outstanding building of its type. It takes the Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation idea that was present in the wonderful buildings at Roehampton and takes it to a whole different level of urban space making. That is its great value.’

New York-based Rafael Viñoly, who had also backed the listing bid, said: ‘There is great value in the refurbishment and preservation of Twentieth century Modernist architecture in the UK; in the case of Robin Hood Gardens, the decision not to grant formal listing is gravely unfortunate and places one of Britain’s most significant and radical urban solutions towards social housing at risk of demolition.

The decision not to grant formal listing is gravely unfortunate

‘This building should be protected and saved; there are a vast number of approaches that could be developed to rethink and improve on the existing dwellings, which would in turn, generate positive contributions to the surrounding area whilst preserving Britain’s modernist heritage.’

The 1972 Robin Hoods Gardens estate is set to be replaced by the second phase of the 1,575 home Blackwall Reach regeneration project, masterplanned by Aedas. It is understood architects have yet to be officially appointed for the work.

The full statement from the C20 Society

We are deeply disappointed that despite our best endeavours to save the buildings, and the intervention of Lord Rogers and the support of many eminent architects, the government is set once again not to list Robin Hood Gardens.

This historic development, designed by two of most influential and important twentieth century architects in Britain, should be kept for future generations and imaginatively refurbished - not demolished.  Much has changed in terms of attitudes to post war housing since Tower Hamlets first proposed demolishing Robin Hood Gardens. 

Listing would have allowed fresh analysis in the light of these changes.  Not only is the architectural and historic value of buildings like Robin Hood Gardens now better understood, but there is more appreciation of the value of maintaining established communities and better skills for successful upgrading and refurbishment. 

We have issued a Freedom of Information Request to understand how the decision making process was made, and to see what expertise they have drawn upon to arrive at this decision.

C20 Society 'deeply disappointed' by Robin Hood Gardens decision

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • More haste, less speed. The third photo is of the Brandon Estate and is by Michael Mulcahy, not me.

    Perhaps it is worth noting the experience of the Transition Group when exhibiting photos of RHG in Poplar in April: any comments we received condemning RHG came from non-residents; those who had lived in it, or were still there, spoke of it with some fondness.

    By the way does anyone know who set a car alight on the top of the mound? This was emphatically not typical of the estate's recent history. It could, though, have been read as such by anyone determined to denigrate the estate.

    Peter Luck

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  • I note that you have changed the photo. Thanks.

    Peter Luck.

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  • Once gone it can't be replaced! In my 40 years experience as an architectural historian in London, the Tories have always been less interested in preserving England's heritage than Labour governments. How sad it's dependent on politics.

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  • The decision conforms to the government's drive for densification, especially on LA sites in London, as a pretence of addressing the housing crisis. A pretence so long as the proportion of social (so-called affordable) housing is malleable and so long as over 70% are sold off plans (mainly in the Far or Middle East) for investment, many to be left empty or occasional occupied. A substantial proportion of the remainder bought by buy-to-let landlords.

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  • Who has advised Tracey Crouch not to list this building? Presumably the developers who stand to make lots of money out of the site. Could the 20th Century society organise an open day with the residents and get as many people there as possible. There is so much support in the profession for this listing but also from the general public. This period of Architecture is becoming interesting to young people too as proven by the Facebook page The Brutalism Appreciation Society which has nearly 20 thousand members! Please keep the pressure up. And apart from the architectural value Kate Mackintosh is right it will mean more housing lost to the buy to let landlord and the foreign investor!

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