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Robin Hood Gardens council estate.

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V&A acquires segment of Robin Hood Gardens council estate.

A three-story chunk of an east London council estate that is venerated and despised in almost equal measures has been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum. A section of the block will be taken and relocated for posterity, In order to fully appreciate the Architecture of its time. The museum announced it had made one of the most unusual property deals in its history: rescuing an enormous chunk of the Robin Hood Gardens estate, complete with walkway and maisonette interiors. There are also three-tonne vertical concrete fins that helped to give the building its distinctive look.It has been collapsed into sections and will be transported by art movers to a store off site.“It is also an object that will stimulate debate around architecture and urbanism today. It raises important questions about the history and future of housing in Britain and what we want from our cities.”

Robin Hood Gardens, a stone’s throw from Canary Wharf, was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson for the Greater London Council (GLC). The estate is innovative, with deflecting acoustic walls, “streets in the sky” and innovative internal layouts. It has become a battleground brutalism’s defenders – Richard Rogers likens it to a Nash terrace and says it is post-war Britain’s most important social housing development.

Tower Hamlets council is determined to knock it down and replace its 214 flats with up to 1,575 new homes. Whether this will include a higher or lower number of genuinely affordable homes is unclear, but the decision to demolish has split the architecture profession, with some calling for a boycott of work on the estate.The estate cost £1.8m to build, a figure that has been wiped away by inflation. There is no doubt that the Robin Hood Gardens estate could be refurbished, but the costs would be high and the land it stands on has become increasingly valuable as London’s center of gravity has shifted eastwards.


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