Robin Hood Gardens was an architectural experiment that is now seen as a defining moment in post-war British architecture. Despite its many shortcomings, the buildings are the clearest representation of a typology of large-scale housing projects that fascinated a generation of architects through to the 1970s. An opportunity now exists to save and successfully adapt the existing buildings and their immediate surroundings without compromising their essential qualities.
The buildings are arranged as two extended residential blocks that enclose the central green space, however, the scale of the blocks and the unbroken repetitive nature of the existing facades do not respond to the adjoining network of streets. Unusually for a building of this vintage, they have no community facilities, resulting in public spaces that lack activity and animation.
These shortcomings can be rectified through a series of interventions that illustrate it is capable of adapting to changing requirements whilst retaining the spirit of the original. The proposal has three principal ideas:
1. A series of puncturing elements that break the repetitive cellular arrangement of the existing facade. These are either unique extensions of dwelling spaces, connecting elements or the external manifestation of large interior voids contained within the grid. These large spaces are the core of the regeneration since they house screening rooms, libraries and functions designed to encourage social interaction.
2. A series of paths derived from the geometry of the buildings that are expressed as cuts through the existing contoured landscape. These not only convey a more human scale to the space while linking across the site, but also house a principal 'main street' oriented east/west and lined with retail units. The others are punctuated like the façade with spaces that provide a series of outdoor rooms for seating and childrens play and general places of interaction.
A new network of uninterrupted pedestrian connections with two decks extended over the Blackwall tunnel approach to the east and the DLR station to the south. These decks isolate the noise and pollution emitted by the vehicles below and provide pedestrian routes that link the new DLR station through the communal spaces to the existing network of streets.
The project takes into account the draft Blackwall Regeneration Development, providing additional housing, local shops, commercial areas, community facilities and offices. At the same time it retains and celebrates the existing buildings as the central element in a more extensive development.
Robin Hood Gardens