Ex-BDP chairman Tony McGuirk has hit out at Richard Rogers for trying to save the ‘monolithic and failed’ Robin Hood Gardens housing estate
In a provocative essay written for AJ about the current ‘void in thinking’ about solutions to the housing crisis, McGuirk slams the Smithson’s estate in east London as a ‘failed housing model’ and questions why big names architects want to get the 1972 ‘streets in the sky’ development listed.
Last month Rogers wrote to more than 300 leading construction industry professionals asking them to support a new listing bid for Robin Hood Gardens which is earmarked for demolition.
However McGuirk, who worked with Ralph Erskine on the well-known Byker housing project in the 1970s, argues that Robin Hood Gardens was not a successful exemplar for other, large-scale residential schemes.
He claims that ‘antipathy to council estate design’, such as Robin Hood Gardens, led to the more community-focussed plans at Byker in Newcastle and that these ideas should be resurrected.
He says: ‘[At] a time when one of our most notable global architects proposes the retention of a monolithic Brutalist experiment and failed housing model by the Smithsons, it is important to rally to what Colin St John Wilson termed ‘the alternative tradition in modernism’ represented in Byker.
‘If we don’t, and we ever get the chance of designing large scale housing neighbourhoods again in our cities that significantly include for people in need, we will no longer have the sensibilities so important in the approach to designing with people’.
McGuirk, who became chair of BDP in 2006 before stepping down last year, adds: ‘Byker was not designed as a theoretical model for future copy across our cities as Robin Hood Gardens, but as an approach to designing for people within their communities and an approach to the particular setting within the city and its qualities for an enjoyable life for all those who lived there.’
McGuirk recently set up a new architecture and urban design partnership McGuirkWatson with ‘young architect colleague’ Keith Watson.
Read the full article in this week’s magazine or click here.