Google+ London Architecture Blog: Week 29 13 Feature #22 Robin Hood Gardens

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Week 29 13 Feature #22 Robin Hood Gardens

Robin Hood Gardens
Architect: Alison and Peter Smithson
Date Constructed: 1969-72
Location:  Woolmore Street, Poplar, London E14 0HG

Robin Hood Gardens is a housing estate owned by Tower Hamlets Council designed by Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972. The building is an example of the brutalist style of architecture and is significant for its innovative 'streets in the sky' concept.

The estate is part of a long campaign by the Twentieth Century Society, supported by many leading architects, to protect the buildings from demolition and to have the buildings listed owing to their architectural significance. Despite the campaign, planning permission was granted for the demolition of the two buildings and the redevelopment of the site in 2012.

The estate consists of two long linear concrete blocks with apartments and maisonettes on each side. Between these is a large landscaped area with a children's play area, trees and a hill made from construction waste. The layout of the estate is focused around the idea of a community architecture, incorporating a generous communal space and the idea of streets raised at each level for community interaction. In total, the estate consists of 214 flats and maisonettes, spread across 10 floors (east block) and 7 floors (west block).

The principle structure is a reinforced concrete frame with steel details and timber windows. The entrances to the apartments are accessed via stairways at each end of the blocks, with the connecting 'streets' set back into the elevation at every third level. At ground floor level, access is through the corners of the estate, with concrete screens to the surrounding roads and gated access to the ground floor apartments.

The Smithsons began their architectural careers working for the London County Council until they set up their own architectural practice in 1950. Early projects include the Smithdon School, Hunstanton (1949-54) and the Economist Building (1959-65), as well as unbuilt schemes such as Coventry Cathedral (1951) and Sheffield University. Alongside their design work, the Smithsons became involved in architectural education which included posts at the University of Bath and Architectural Association. After the completion of Robin Hood Gardens in 1972, they went on to design buildings for the University of Bath and their final built project, the Cantilever-Chair Museum of the Bauhaus Design company TECTA in Germany.

Photographs taken in April 2013.

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