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Robin Hood Gardens Controversy
Transcript of Robin Hood Gardens Controversy
“Look out my kitchen window, what do you see? Trees, grass, very pleasant surroundings. It’s a great place to live, absolutely. This is the most peaceful part of the borough with plenty of facilities.”
“It’s got nothing to do with the design. The homes are run down because the council won’t spend money on them. This is a prime spot. That’s why they want to build 3,000 more homes here. The whole thing is about location and money.”
“The way it has upside down maisonettes, you never hear noise from anyone else. And the nice thing is that every room has plenty of light — one wall is all windows and you’re not looking into someone else’s house. I don’t think these people who are proposing thousands of new homes for this site have a clue.”
Magnitsky claims that residents were persuaded into favouring demolition in the promise of new homes, and a guarantee of their rights as council tenants.
Aktar Hussain Member of Robin Hood Garden’s Residents Association
“Some residents don’t treat it with care, but it’s not the design, it’s how they feel the council is treating them. The feeling is no one cares. Thirty per cent want to move out. It really needs an injection of capital, but most people don’t have a clue what the council is suggesting.” Mahad, Hamza & Joshua
“The council just say, ‘we want that demolished’, but they are not thinking. They’re taking down the culture of London. It has maintenance problems but it shouldn’t be knocked down.”- Mahad (12)
“I made a speech at school about the environment. Robin Hood Gardens was my example. The trees here soak up the carbon dioxide from the motorway.” - Hamaz (9)
“There’s really good provisions here. Two stations, supermarkets, our school is nearby. They shouldn’t knock it down.”- Joshua (11) Gary Truman
Has lived in Robin Hood Gardens for 30 years in a Two Bed Duplex
"Everyone called them the posh flats when I moved in"
"I would hate to move...you would never get a community like we got here" Shopna Khan “The community here is excellent, this is what we will miss...but the design of the houses are not very good at all, the kitchen itself is just on its own upstairs, and everything else downstairs, we are forever running up and down. The leakings are the worst problems in the buildings...you have to live in something to understand...we are living proof of these buildings”
Obadiah Chambers "They should pull it down, without a doubt."
"They would not be pulling my home down because I don't call it a home." Charles Alison "People live in Robin Hood Gardens, like they live in a prison." Resident's Remarks "It should be blown up"
"15-20 years ago it was voted for as the worst designed block in England"
"Everything's out of order, you get stuck in the lifts, you got all the rubbish all around the place”
The largest percentage of the estate’s current residents are of Bangladeshi origin, like Sabina Begum, a 25-year-old woman who has been living with her family in Robin Hood Gardens for 21 years.“My mother has been to a couple of public meetings but she doesn’t understand good English so it’s difficult for her to get involved" Journalists Architects Aedas Andy Burnham Developers Societies Building Design Campaign To Save Robin Hood Gardens Blackwall Reach Zoran Radivojevic of Cazenove Architects Simon Jenkins Darren Pauling
Has lived in Robin Hood Gardens for over a decade
“I am sick of seeing overdevelopment of what was once a green and pleasant area being turned into a concrete jungle”
"The whole propaganda machine of Tower Hamlets council’s so-called ‘consultation’ process for the Blackwall Reach regeneration of Robin Hood Gardens has been set upon residents like a feral dog"
"Why does council keeps repeating the same mantra of “80 per cent” in favour of demolition and never including the 95 per cent wanting to stay council tenants?" Media Martin Ginestie Environment Glen Howells Jestico & Whiles Kraft Architecture Tower Hamlets Council Swan Housing and Countryside Properties London & Quadrant Telford Homes Lutfur Rahman
Mayor of Tower Hamlets Maintenance Norman Foster Park Hill Estate Sheffield Pesvner Guide Phil Briscoe
Local Councillor Sarah Wigglesworth Zaha Hadid HTA Squire & Partners Sir Stuart Lipton Sunand Prasad
RIBA President Rowan Moore Formation Conservation New Proposals Peter & Alison Smithson Among the most influential and controversial British architects of the mid-20th Century, the architects of Robin Hood Gardens were advocates of New Brutalism. The design of the complex was an example of the ‘streets in the sky’ concept: social housing characterised by broad aerial walkways in concrete blocks. Covering over two hectares, the design holds two long blocks, one of 10 storeys, the other of seven, built from pre-cast concrete slabs and containing 213 flats. An undulating landscape of grass sits in the middle of the two buildings, a oasis of calm in the centre of the capital.
Worked with the Smithsons on the Robin Hood Gardens Project
Contributed to Robin Hood Gardens "Re-Visions Book"
"It does have life in it...buildings have a soul in them, it would be sad to see it demolished" Ken Baker Personally wrote to the government asking for the conservation of Robin Hood Gardens Has shown public support for the conservation of Robin Hood Gardens & has contributed to the book "Robin Hood Gardens: Re-Visions". Richard Rogers "Robin Hood Gardens has been appallingly neglected and, from the beginning, has been used as a sink estate". Rogers has also contributed to the book "Robin Hood Gardens: Re-Visions". Sarah Wigglesworth Architects devised a scheme to promote the conservation of Robin Hood Gardens. Similar to the redevelopment of Park Hill in Sheffield, they have shown that it is possible to modernise these estates and make them more inhabitable, whilst at the same time retaining some of their original aspects. The scheme calls for extra flats to be added to the roof of the current building as well as the car park. Kraft Architecture,as part of an International Design competition run by BD Magazine, proposed a new scheme for the Robin Hood Gardens complex. The regeneration masterplan involved introducing a greater variety of commercial & arts based mixed-use development to provide better employment opportunity and encourage diversification. Design Proposals for the Regeneration of Robin Hood Gardens Winner of BD Magazines ideas competition for Robin Hood Gardens, organised to persuade the council that regeneration of the existing building was more sustainable than demolition. Margaret Hodge The former architecture minister who advocated a radical new approach to the preservation of important post-war buildings. She advised: "When some concrete monstrosity - sorry, I mean modernist masterpiece - fails to make the cut despite having expert opinion behind it, let's find a third way. This is the 21st century - a perfect digital image of the building, inside and out, could be retained forever." Hodge refused the conservation of Robin Hood Gardens in 2008. Jonathan Glancy On the 15th of May 2009, the Minister of Culture, Andy Burnham issued his decision not to list the Robin Hood Gardens Estate. He also granted a Certificate of Immunity meaning the structure could not be considered for listing for at least 5 years. Interviews with the people of Robin Hood Gardens "I have to say from my experience that most residents are only too keen to see the back of the buildings and see them replaced with some more modern housing. To date, I have only been contacted by one resident who is in favour of refurbishing rather than demolishing the buildings" "Blackwall Reach is one of the most exciting regeneration projects taking place in the borough. It’s a big project that will bring lasting improvements to the lives of hundreds of local residents." Robin Hood Gardens
(Or Every Brutalist Structure For Itself) The Observer Journalist comments on the social impact that demolishing the complex would have. "To achieve this doubtful utopia, all existing residents, with their networks of neighbours and friendships, will be decanted elsewhere, probably never to return". He also shows distain towards the new proposals aesthetics, and lack of critical design: "Particularly startling is a cluster of towers in the scheme proposed by Swan Housing and Countryside Properties. This is pure Hong Kong, minus the vibrant street life or dramatic topography. They show no interest in architectural quality, or in the making of home or community. They are just units, stacked." The East London Pevsner guide calls Robin Hood "rough and tough ... ill-planned to the point of inhumane". The Guardian Journalist agresively argues that Robin Hood Gardens should be demolished: "Never have the rich been robbed to dump so much concrete ugliness on the heads of the poor." Economy & Demand The Twentieth Century Society is a membership organisation which campaigns for the conservation of the best 20th Century Architecture. It was founded in 1976 as the Thirties Society and is now recognised by government and has a statutory role in the planning process.
The Society campaigned in close conjunction with Building Design Magazine and the wider architectural community..."we remain committed to forcing a rethink and convinced that with refurbishment the estate can provide good quality housing."
Alongside the continuing campaign, the Society, in collaboration with the RIBA & The University of Greenwich, hosted an exhibition entitled 'Robin Hood Gardens- Re-Visions'. It featured archive material on the estate, a series of new images from acclaimed architectural photographer Ioana Marinescu and a new documentary film on the estate by NFT student Martin Ginestie. The exhibition also include recent projects about Robin Hood Gardens completed by diploma students at the University of Greenwich.
University of Greenwich 20th Century Society Propsal from a University of Greenwich student for the regeneration of Robin Hood Gardens, displayed in Robin Hood Re-Visions Exhibition It would be "a foolish misreading of the lessons of history to knock it down". Government Departments & Schemes Tower Hamlets Council promoted the demolition of Robin Hood Gardens to "maximise the number of social rented homes." In their campaign they urged the government to "put people before buildings...whatever the questionable architectural merits of the present buildings, the living standards for thousands of residents in one of the poorest parts of London must come first"- Mayor of Tower Hamlets The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is the single national housing and regeneration delivery agency for England. The Agency worked closely with Tower Hamlets Council & produced an exhibition of proposals for local residents. It was the HCA & Tower Hamlets that chose the winning Blackwall Reach project.
Jonathan Martin, Head of Area East London, the Homes and Communities Agency, said: 'Having the community on board is fundamental to us being able to deliver a successful development. This public exhibition is a perfect opportunity to get people's views on the two tenders for Blackwall Reach.'
In May 2009, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport turned down the request from the Twentieth Century Society to list Robin Hood Gardens. This created the gap in protective legislation that resulted in the proposed regeneration of the site.
Sport Roger Bowdler, leader of English Heritage: "Did it produce a contented community? No it didn't." English Heritage recommended that the estate should not be listed.
Lord Rogers strongly disagreed within this decision: “All the British winners of the Pritzker Prize, the highest international award for an architect, agree that Robin Hood Gardens is one of the greatest modern buildings in the UK...there is not one internationally recognised modern architect or academic included in making English Heritage’s recommendation on Robin Hood Gardens to the minister. We should, therefore, deeply question the authority and objectivity of English Heritage in discussing contemporary architecture of this quality.”
The first team, fronted by Swan Housing & Countryside Properties, features Aedas as masterplanner with designs from Jestico & Whiles and Glenn Howells.
The second team, led by London & Quadrant and Telford Homes, features designs by HTA and Squire & Partners. Residents of Robin Hood Gardens voted in favour of the HTA and Squire & Partners’ designs for the housing estate’s redevelopment. The five members of of Resident's Procurement Panel had voted unanimously. Tower Hamlets Council, however, chose against this option.
London & Quadrant and Telford Homes: This proposal will include 1,731 new homes with 10-storey buildings lining the park and the tallest towers standing at 41 storeys. Around 575 of the homes would be affordable. SWAN Housing & Countryside properties: This plan proposes 1,621 new dwellings, 35% of them affordable, built in phases with the tallest tower standing at 42 storeys. Swan hopes to start work in early 2012 and finish in 2022. Shortlisted Proposals “We think our proposals are good enough for regenerating the original vision the Smithsons had.” “We have produced a public realm-led masterplan, where we designed the park simultaneously with the buildings. We really wanted to create something that felt like the rest of London.” Simon Smithson (Son of Alison & Peter) “When you look at the density of these schemes, it’s clear it’s a real estate deal that’s impossible to resist. Tower Hamlets has its eyes on a quick buck in tough times.” The regeneration aims to:
* Deliver around 1600 new, high-quality homes for existing and new residents alongside community facilities, shops, parkland, an enhanced school and improved links to surrounding neighbourhoods.
* Serve the needs of the existing close-knit community and businesses and improve quality of life.
* Ensure that residents get involved and influence the regeneration proposals.
* Address housing need in Tower Hamlets.
The regeneration aims to:
- Deliver around 1600 new, high-quality homes for existing and new residents alongside community facilities, shops, parkland, an enhanced school and improved links to surrounding neighbourhoods.
- Serve the needs of the existing close-knit community and businesses and improve quality of life.
- Ensure that residents get involved and influence the regeneration proposals.
- Address housing need in Tower Hamlets.
Petitioned against the demolition of Robin Hood Gardens A shortlisted project by Stock Woolstencroft for Tower Hamlets Community Housing retained one of the two 1972 blocks, but it was rejected by the judges. The architects attempted to create a haven from the surrounding area, using the blocks of flats to shield a central landscaped area; "The flats are arranged in two parallel blocks, bent inwards away from the noisy bounding roads towards a generous garden space with a surprising grass mound, like an ancient earthwork." (Alan Powers, The Guardian).
However, the surrounding infrastructure arguably isolates the estate from the surrounding community; "The estate, trapped between two roads, is not an easy place to love." (Amanda Baillieu, Editorial Director, BD Magazine). It has been suggested that the design of Robin Hood Gardens is not at fault, but that the council never invested enough money in maintaining it, condemning the estate to gradual degradation. In recent years the council have been accused of ignoring maintenance problems in order to "run down" the estate; “it suits [the council] that it is left to get even more run down because it encourages people to give up their objections and to accept the first option of a new home… I hope it’s not the case.” (Tim Archer, Opposition Councillor, Tower Hamlets) Various other estates, contemporaries of Robin Hood Gardens, have been listed and subsequently successfully regenerated in recent years. Many people have argued that this a valid option for the estate. Park Hill in Sheffield is a key example, where developers Urban Splash have redeveloped " this fantastic set of buildings into one of Sheffield's most desirable places". The demand for housing in central London instigated the regeneration plan; There are 213 flats in Robin Hood Gardens and a lot of surrounding public space. The orginal proposals for regeneration proposed 3000 flats. Shifts in the global economy and subsequent reduced demand for housing have effected the likelihood of regeneration throughout the duration of the controversy; "the recession had altered the scheme’s viability that it was time to revisit all the options again." (Tim Archer, Opposition Councillor, Tower Hamlets). “The issue goes far beyond architecture and raises questions about exactly why vast resources are thrown at demolishing buildings simply because they are seen to belong to the unfashionable ideology of a previous era." BD editor Amanda Baillieu A two week long campaign to save the Smithsons estate was held by bdonline. A petition of over 1,000 signatures was handed to English Heritage.
BD's campaign featured prominently on BBC 1 and ITV 1 news, on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, on BBC London radio and in newspapers the Observer, the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard and the Mail on Sunday.