V&A Acquires a Chunk of Robin Hood Gardens
10. November 2017
Robin Hood Gardens exterior (Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
London's V&A has announced it is acquiring a three-story section of Robin Hood Gardens, the 1972 housing project designed by Alison and Peter Smithson that is being demolished as part of the Blackwell Reach development.
Although considered a notable example of Brutalist architecture, Robin Hood Gardens was never listed, making it susceptible to demolition. When such plans were announced in 2008, preservation efforts, spearheaded by the Twentieth Century Society with the backing of many famous architects (Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers among them), argued for reusing the two buildings oriented about a contoured green space. The prolonged battle proved unsuccesful, when application for listing was denied. Demolition commenced in late summer of this year.
A statement from the V&A indicates they are "acquiring a three-story section, both the exterior facades and interiors of a maisonette flat, as a significant example of the Brutalist movement in architecture." Beyond its Brutalist credentials, Robin Hood Gardens was an important example of the Smithson's "streets in the sky" concept. The acquisition will include the exterior corridor that embodies this concept.
The idea of obtaining a section of the Brutalist building to add to the V&A's collection of architectural artifacts was first floated by architect Liza Fior (of muf architecture/art), who worked with the museum to help secure it. The acquition aims to "motivate new thinking and research into this highly experimental period of British architectural and urban history," per the V&A's Curator of Contemporary Architectural Collections, Dr. Neil Bingham.
Robin Hood Gardens exterior showing section acquired by the V&A (Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)