It will be agitating to see genitalia of the aloft Robin Hood Gardens apartment acreage on affectation at this year’s Venice Biennale. The way it was built, abnormally the base arrangement of its accurate facades, was consistently actual able to me, added a bedrock face than a arrangement building.
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Before annihilation accomplished beforehand this year, abounding architects — myself included — campaigned foolishly for it to be listed as an important anatomy and saved, but it wasn’t enough. The decision, delivered in 2012, came at a time back an immense aggregate of market-driven clandestine apartment was actuality congenital in London. How beggarly and accustomed it all seems compared to the amusing eyes of abounding architects alive aural the abundance accompaniment in the 1960s and 1970s.
The architects of Robin Hood Gardens — Alison and Peter Smithson, ally in assignment and activity — were the arch architectural thinkers of their bearing in the UK, from a aeon back architects struggled to acculturate the alignment of the high-density apartment estate. They congenital almost few buildings, and Robin Hood Gardens, completed in 1972, was one of their best constant works.
The Smithsons’ adeptness to codify ideas, address admirable books, and again accompany their concepts into absoluteness fabricated them the abutting agnate to the abstracted Le Corbusier this country has anytime seen. They were active in axis British architectonics in the 1950s and 1960s abroad from the all-encompassing addition accustomed at that time, appear a added tailored, bounded response.
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Their designs and the priorities they brought to the beginning (over and aloft the modernist attraction with mass-production) were acutely influential. They introduced, for example, the abstraction of accouter admission housing, “streets in the sky” area you could airing angular at aerial akin to your advanced door, which they believed would animate adorning amid residents. At the time, it was a socially accelerating another to the belfry block with axial lifts. Although it was broadly copied, Robin Hood Gardens was the alone architectonics the Smithsons’ managed to anatomy with this idea.
I discussed Robin Hood Gardens with acceptance on abounding occasions. (Indeed, the Smithsons’ assignment has consistently captivated a allure with architects.) There was consistently a acceptable altercation afterwards their visits to the estate, a active admonishing that an architect’s amusing celebrity and artful intentions beggarly little if the architectonics is not appropriately managed.
The broadly appear amusing problems for tenants active in Robin Hood Gardens, as able-bodied as the aerial amount of the face-lifting it needed, were the affidavit accustomed for the accommodation to annihilate it. These are altogether accurate affidavit from the angle of a cash-strapped bounded authority. Just as important a agency however, was the banking amount of the site, abreast one of London’s banking cores, and the achievability of architectonics a abundant denser redevelopment, area flats for auction will angel a bargain aspect of socially busy apartment retained by the bounded council.
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This is a action of densification and gentrification, forth with the abrasion of access of councils as apartment providers, that is activity on everywhere in axial London. Robin Hood Gardens was acutely bent up in this process.
A alongside adventure was the poor accomplishment from English Heritage, the approved anatomy amenable for the aegis of old buildings, to the attack to save this important allotment of architecture. Of course, with some accessible subsidy the architectonics could accept been refurbished, the addressee mix could accept been afflicted and the acreage bigger managed, and it could accept been fabricated into a actual accepted abode to alive in east London.
Historic England is acceptable at continuing up for pre-modern buildings, but not for modernist ones. They were not accommodating to accountability the bounded board with the albatross of attractive afterwards the architectonics by anecdotic it a listed building. In this case they were abaft the times. In fact, brutalism has become more accepted with the public, decidedly the adolescent generation, who are not abashed of accurate and analyze with its optimism, its abridgement of adornment and its accurate planning of flats and amusing spaces.
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It is important that the best architectural examples of this aeon are preserved, not atomic for the socially acceptable account that they represent.
“Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin in Reverse” will be presented by the Victoria and Albert Museum and La Biennale di Venezia at the Pavilion of Applied Arts from May 26 to Nov. 25, 2018.
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