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Latest listing bid for Robin Hood Gardens fails

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Campaigners, including a raft of big name architects, have failed in their latest bid to win listing for the Smithsons’ 1970s Robin Hood Gardens estate in east London

According to Historic England, Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch is due to approve a certificate of immunity for the housing estate designed by Alison and Peter Smithson.

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

It is the second time the scheme has been handed immunity from listing. The last certificate, issued in 2009, ran out in 2014.

Following its certificate’s expiry, the Twentieth Century Society made a new bid to get the iconic building listed in October last year.

The campaign was backed by a host of the profession’s leading lights including Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, Rafael Viñoly, Ted Cullinan, Robert Stern, Will Alsop, Amanda Levete and RIBA president Stephen Hodder.

Historic England said that there had been no new information since the building was originally considered for listing in 2008 and therefore it could not revise its assessment.

Emily Gee, head of designation at Historic England, said: ‘No new information has come to light that would cause us to revise our assessment, so we stand by our view that Robin Hood Gardens does not meet the very high threshold for listing.

‘In recommending a building for listing, particularly one so recently built, we need to consider whether it stands up as one of the best examples of its type. We don’t think that Robin Hood Gardens does. It was not innovative in its design – by the time the building was completed in 1972 the ‘streets-in-the-air’ approach was at least 20 years old.

‘The building has some interesting qualities, such as the landscape, but the architecture is bleak in many areas, particularly in communal spaces, and the status of Alison and Peter Smithson alone cannot override these drawbacks.’

She added that the estate did not reach the high quality of other listed 20th century estates like the Barbican and Sheffield’s Park Hill.

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.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It would be a sad day if it got knocked down. I've lived near it for years, and think its an amazing piece of architecture, I love walking around it. It makes me question the listing process, when so many lesser building across London, and numerous Georgian & Victorian houses with very little difference can be granted listing. Yet here we are, being told Robin Hood Gardens has nothing unique to offer that other buildings haven’t done before, and for that reason it cannot be protected. I can only assume that political pressures to avoid protecting such a large piece of prime land, so near to Canary Wharf must be having an influence somewhere along the line.

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  • The Historic England assessor observes that 'by the time the building was completed in 1972 the 'streets-in-the-air approach' was at least 20 years old' and that, as such, Robin Hood Gardens cannot be considered 'innovative in its design'. Perhaps she can explain in what way the many listed Georgian and Victorian London town houses - the typology for which evolved over generations and whose ideas for ornamentation date back to the time of the Ancient Greeks - are innovative. . .

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