Robin Hood Gardens and the divisiveness of brutalism

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IT HAS an almost mythical status in the canon of post-war British buildings. Clad in precast concrete panels, with apartments rising and descending from wide, raised decks (referred to as “streets in the sky”), Robin Hood Gardens embodies the brutalist desire to renegotiate the relationship between architecture, citizens and society. Built as two long concrete superstructures with a ceremonial mound at the centre of its ample public gardens, it is considered the realisation of the ideas that Peter and Alison Smithson, the great ideologues of brutalism, had promulgated through their teaching. The buildings, and its 252 flats, were to be a “demonstration of a more enjoyable way of living…of a new mode of urban organisation”. 

But by the time of the building’s completion in 1972, brutalism was already old hat. As with many public housing projects, the local authority budgets used to manage the estates were slashed in the late 1970s, and it fell into disrepair. Despite a campaign to have it placed on Historic England’s…Continue reading

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