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FUTURE LONDON | Watch: Demolishing one of London’s most brutalist housing projects




The Smithsons hoped that street life could be designed back in, and the social fragmentation caused by towers could thereby be eliminated.

Image by Sandra Lousada, 1972 © The Smithson Family Collection

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As it faces demolition, the Architectural Review‘s history editor Tom Wilkinson considers the legacy of London’s Robin Hood Gardens– one of east London’s most notable brutalist housing projects. Although consistently voted some of the most hated buildings in the country, Wilkinson delves beyond the style debate to consider the values and intentions which underpinned the building of this controversial estate and others like it.

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The fate of many of London’s housing estates have become a powerful symbol of the housing problems facing the city. In pressure areas around the city – Hackney, Southwark, Islington and Tower Hamlets to name a few – housing estates built during the 60s and 70s are facing increasing scrutiny as potential sites for regeneration. While some are refurbished alongside some improvements to the public realm, others, like Robin Hood Gardens, face the wrecking ball. While the provision of new housing (many of the estate are redeveloped at higher densities) is undoubtedly a priority for London, problems of relocation, residents being priced out of their communities and a loss of architectural heritage plague a number of London’s estate regeneration schemes. While Architectural Review’s Requiem for a Dream for Robin Hood Gardens explores these issues at the scale of one estate in east London, the challenges highlighted echo across the city.