Robin Hood Gardens (part II) – a new vision

Last Friday I went down to see the designs proposed by the two teams in the running to demolish and rebuild Robin Hood Gardens and its surrounding area – known collectively as Blackwall Reach. (See article here in Building Design).

The area outlined in red above is the regeneration area. You can see the existing Robin Hood Gardens in the middle, with the large green area separating the two buildings designed by Alison and Peter Smithson.

The site is pretty much an urban island, to the south is the Docklands Light Railway, to the west is Cotton Street – a pretty grim major road that is currently cut off from the estate by a huge concrete wall – and to the east is the Blackwall Tunnell Northern Approach Road. I think the name just about says it all, it’s not a friendly place.

When I arrived at the pubic exhibition, organised by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets together with the Homes & Communities Agenc, it wasn’t too busy. Though I believe they had quite a bit of interest over the four hours (!!) it was open.

Between them the clients have condemned the Smithson’s buildings to be demolished. Robin Hood Gardens was granted with immunity from listing after successfull campaigning from the council.

The first plans I looked at were Swan Housing and Countryside Properties, who worked with masterplanners Aedas. Architecture firms Jestico & Whiles and Glenn Howells will be drawing up detailed design of individual buildings.

They are proposing to build 1,621 new dwellings.

This is a view from the northern end of the site. The tall tower at the far end will stand at 42 storeys.

This is the view looking along the tunnel approach road.

And this is the area where the current buildings stand.

I think this last image just about says it all.
Is this really better than what’s there now? Will this stand the test of time?
Anyway, here is the second set of proposals from housing association London & Quadrant and Telford Homes. They are working with HTA and Squire & Partners.
The massing is similar to the Swan scheme. In this view from the northern end of the site you can see the lower buildings in the foreground (where there will also be a new mosque), leading to the towers at the southern end of the site. The tallest tower here would be 41 storeys tall.
Again, the green area is in roughly the same place as it is now.
The council is expected to make a decision on which plans to go ahead with as early as next week.
The proposals really are not too dissimilar. And having spoken to residents down there, neither option seems particularly appealing to the locals – all of whom will be “decanted” to new housing in the next ten years.
Given Tower Hamlet’s past record in such circumstances, it is unlikely that once the community is broken up that it will ever come back together again.
Sad times indeed.

6 thoughts on “Robin Hood Gardens (part II) – a new vision

  1. This does not look like the kind of development where the existing tenants of Robin Hood Gardens will be able to afford to live, there may be a certain percentage of ‘affordable housing’ provided but, let’s face it this is a development for the young professionals of Canary Wharf and really has nothing to do with improving living conditions for the people who currently live on this site. The council may be unable to afford the improvements needed to bring Robin Hood Gardens up to standard but effectively selling off the already diminished stock of council housing to companies like Swan Housing is not the answer and causes all sorts of negative knock on effects.

  2. Swan Housing Associaion Exmouth Estate should never be allowed to head even the most basic housing estate leave alone a complex development like Robin Hood gardens. Believe me I know because they have been my landlord for the past 5 years. They are the most devious Registered Social landlord I know .

  3. This week I’ve been to Robin Hood Gardens. I think that the two buildings are amazing. Sure, they’d need a proper renovation, but people there seemed pretty tight knit – and this aspect make a building ‘home’. I’m aware there are a lot of crime issues, though… Anyway a gentrified building do not solve a problem. The surrounding new buildings are not only ugly, but also eschewed of any humanity.

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