Robin Hood Gardens Estate
Celebrated post-war council estate comprising two concrete blocks of seven and ten storeys facing each other across a green space.
ArchitectAlison & Peter Smithson
Meet: Project Shop on ground floor of East Block, Poplar High Street/Blackwall Tunnel Approach E14 0HN
Sat/Sun 10am-5pm. Exhibition comprising archival materials, photographs, and recorded interviews with residents. Hourly tours 11am-4.30pm, including a residential unit and private areas of the estate. Places available on first come basis, but may also be pre-booked via www.robinhoodgardens.london. Last entry 4.30pm. Max 8 per tour.
- Partial disabled
- Toilets available
Robin Hood Gardens is a celebrated and controversial council housing estate in Poplar, East London. Commissioned by the GLC, designed by architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972, the estate is scheduled for demolition in 2017.
The Smithsons, influenced by le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation, set out to design their own version of “the building as street”, creating “a demonstration of a more enjoyable way of living in an old industrial part of a city …a model of a new mode of urban organisation which can show what life could be like”.
The site was – and remains – problematic, sandwiched as it is between three busy roads. The Smithson’s solution was to create two reinforced concrete slab blocks, of seven and ten storeys, protecting a landscaped garden which would be a “stress-free central zone protected from the noise and pressures of the surrounding roads by the buildings themselves…a quiet green heart which all dwellings share and can look into”. Additional protection was provided by 10ft high acoustic walls at street level and by placing bedrooms and kitchen-diners on the inner, quieter, side of the blocks. There are 214 flats and space standards are generous.
However, the most celebrated design feature was to be the access decks to the dwellings, envisaged as ‘streets in the sky’ and intended to reference and encourage a traditional model of East End sociability: “The deck itself is wide enough for the milkman to bring his cart along or for two women with prams to stop for a talk and still let the postman by.”
Sadly, by the end of the last century Robin Hood Gardens had acquired a reputation as a troubled estate, with alleged design issues and social problems. A 2006 survey found the blocks to be in poor condition with significant defects to the external envelope and roof coverings. In 2008 Tower Hamlets Council, the successor landlord to the GLC, voted for demolition. In the same year a campaign was launched by the Twentieth Century Society to preserve the estate by proposing it listing. However, despite significant support from leading architects, the estate was not listed. Following the approval in 2012 by Tower Hamlets Council of the Blackwell Reach Regeneration Scheme, which will replace the estate with higher density housing, demolition is scheduled to begin in early 2017.
The exhibition at Robin Hood Gardens during Open House London 2016 by the Transition Group, aims to tell the history of this iconic estate through photographs, archival materials and interviews with residents. We will offer visitors guided tours of private areas of the estate, including lobbies, access decks and, subject to the availability of a suitable void, a vacant maisonette. Places on the tours can be booked via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/robin-hood-gardens-tour-open-house-london-tickets-27123264414
Thanks go to Tower Hamlets Council and Tower Hamlets Homes for facilitating this event.