Demolition work has started at Robin Hood Gardens housing estate, spelling the end for the Smithsons’ ‘streets in the sky’ development
Photographs taken by the AJ show builders beginning to take down the western side of Alison and Peter Smithson’s lauded 1972 Brutalist landmark in east London to make way for a major regeneration scheme of the wider site.
The Blackwall Reach regeneration project, masterplanned by Metropolitan Workshop, is split into five phases and will eventually replace the estate’s 252 homes with 1,575 new units.
However, even yesterday, the AJ could still see residents living in the eastern block of the two main Smithsons-designed buildings.
A spokesperson for Swan Housing Association, which is backing the regeneration scheme, said that 27 council tenants and six homeowners remain in this building, which overlooks the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel, and that they will not be moved out until 2020. Some of these residents will rehoused in new homes built on the cleared part of the site.
Meanwhile Swan said that work was already underway on a ‘soft strip’ of all the non-structural elements on the west block. But no definite timescale was given for when the bulldozers would finallly move in. The spokesperson added: ’All we can confirm at this stage is the physical demolition on the west block will be complete in 2018. We will announce when the physical demolition will begin.’
Plans by Haworth Tompkins and Metropolitan Workshop to flatten and replace the western block of the estate were approved last year. The phase 2 scheme includes 268 new homes in four new buildings – two by each practice (blocks C1, C2, C3 and D).
Three months ago, CF Møller landed phase 3, which will see the eastern side of the Smithsons’ block demolished to make way for 330 new homes – half of them affordable. The units will range from one-bedroom flats to five-bedroom maisonettes (blocks E1, E2, E3, E4, F1 and F2).
In 2015, the Twentieth Century Society failed in its bid to get statutory protection for the estate, despite a campaign to save the buildings backed by Richard Rogers and Zaha Hadid among others. Instead, heritage minister Tracey Crouch granted a second certificate of immunity for the blocks. Previously, in 2008, then architecture minister Margaret Hodge also refused to list the estate, concurring with English Heritage that it was unfit for people to live in.