No Rescue For Robin Hood

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 117 months ago
No Rescue For Robin Hood
Robin Hood Gardens

Despite a cast of cheerleaders including Lord Foster and Zaha Hadid, Poplar's Robin Hood Gardens estate, whose plight we reported on in March, appears doomed. A proposal to have the Brutalist masterpiece / eyesore (an opinion that depends on how many black turtleneck sweaters you own) given listed status has been rejected, and with 80% of residents baying for the block to be destroyed, it will likely go the way of all concrete. Good riddance to bad design? Or the regrettable loss of an icon? What say you, Londoners?

Last Updated 01 July 2008


I'm surprised it's made it this long, really. But I'm sure we'll come to regret this when Brutalism gets old enough to be loved. I hope Bloomsbury's Institute of Education survives that long.

Amanda Farah

As far as Brutalist buildings go, Robin Hood is less offensive than most.


It's sad when something of architectural interest isn't viable any more and it's happening a lot at the moment, because of the sheer costs involved in maintain non-traditionally constructed buildings. However, the architectural merits aside, these buildings were very much of their time and I think it's widely accepted that the innovative design ideas of the time, for example walkways in the sky and separating pedestrians from traffic, cause huge problems for the people that have to live there now. I, personally, find brutalist and modernist architecture interesting but would I want to live on one of these estates (Trellic Tower aside, natch)? No. Do most of the people that live there appreciate the architectural value, or would they prefer a three bed semi, that's not riddled with damp and asbestos. Probably. It's a shame but if a building fails to live up to its sole reason for existing you have two options, destroy or bastardise. With something like Battersea Powerstation you can bastardise and there's a draw for private sector finance (if you can only get it through planning!) but with an estate like the Robin Hood only a crazy person is going to invest in it, because of the sheer scale of the investment needed on an ongoing basis.


Well put, Babb.


Thanks for your comment, Babb.

I agree that it's absurb that 'starchitects' can wax about how wonderful a building like Robin Hood is, without actually having to contemplate living there (though it should be remembered that Erno Goldfinger lived in both of his high-rise London blocks). They might re-think once the waft from the busted rubbish chute starts reaching them as they recline in their Alvar Aalto chairs.

There's a reason that the likes of Marseilles' Unite d'Habitacion was such a success, while similar schemes such as Robin Hood failed. The investment needed to maintain these places was never provided by local councils, and it wasn't long before the 'sink estate' epithet became a tautology whenever Britain's social housing was under discussion. Hence many years too late, the buildings become cause celebres, when the inhabitants want nothing more than to be rid of the place forever.


Good riddance, to ask to preserve Robin Hood Gardens was akin, in my mind, to asking to preserve the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

You wouldn't see anyone listing a tower block, so why this eyesore?


Actually there are a number of listed tower blocks in London, including the Keeling House in Bethnal Green (in 1993) and the Goldfinger tower pair of Balfron and Trellick.