In 2008 the intention to demolish the estate was made public, inciting a campaign for it's Architectural Preservation. No other work of British Social Housing has divided opinion to such a great extent. The campaign was supported by international recognised Architects including Lord Richard Rodgers, Zaha Hadid, Jon Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, Rafael Viñoly, Will Alsop, The Twentieth Century Society and RIBA president Stephen Holder.
‘The notoriety achieved by Robin Hood Gardens… after the threat of demolition became known, was an indication that old prejudices against social housing and the architecture of the welfare state remain divisive, while intellectualism in architects is widely mistrusted. On the other side, the conservation cause was perhaps weakened in the eyes of officialdom by the apparent knee-jerk response on behalf of the building and its architects, regardless of other evidence’
Alan Powers. Robin Hood Gardens: Whose Side Are You On?
Based on the advice of Historic England DCMS (Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport) awarded two five year Certificates Of Immunity from listing during the campaign. Simon Smithson, son of Alison and Peter -issued a detailed statement following publication of Historic England’s recommendation to refuse the building for listing.
‘In the weeks up to the decision, it was rumoured that there was an unusual level of interest by the minister. No sooner was the decision made public than we began to hear noises that a recommendation to list the building has been overruled at the instruction of the politicians and that Historic England's initial report had been hastily rewritten to justify a "no, do not list" outcome’.
The Brutal Truth About The Destruction Of Robin Hood Lane
Historic England states a number of key reasons why Robin Hood Gardens did not meet the criteria for listing, the first being the relatively narrow and twisting nature of its stairwells, but the stairwells are not the only means of circulation, the building features generous double height lift lobbies- the stairs required only to perform the function of means of escape. Even so, the stairs are well designed with angled passing places at landings.
The second, the failure of the ‘streets in the sky’ approach- the walkways are narrower than those seen at other post-war housing schemes such as Park Hill in Sheffield or the Barbican, with a transient population, I feel that the success of the building to foster neighbourly interaction cannot be fairly judged.
Lastly the estates ‘prison-like’ boundary wall - a matter of aesthetic interpretation.
The 'Blackwall Reach' masterplan quotes the provision of 1,575 new homes, 45% of which are to be designated as affordable housing, a blessing to a struggling local authority. However, looking at examples of I feel it is unlikely that affordable housing provision at this percentage will be eventually be delivered.