2006 - Now
In 2006 Tower Hamlets Council, successors to the GLC, began considering the future of Robin Hood Gardens and adjoining sites. Around the same time others, sensing danger, began to consider its protection. Tower Hamlets carried out a survey that revealed structural issues and determined that it would cost £70’000 per flat to bring them up to the ‘Decent Homes Standard’. A 2009 survey of residents commissioned by LBTH cited over 75% being in favour of demolition - although the survey methodology was questioned and independent surveys appeared to contradict these results.
At this point some in the architectural profession argued that Robin Hood Gardens deserved recognition for its architectural originality, the way the design addressed its challenging environment, exemplar execution of the ‘streets in the sky’ concept and the Smithsons’ significant influence on post-war British architecture, Robin Hood Gardens being their largest scale and singular social housing project – in short that it deserved statutory listing.
While the 20th Century Society and Building Design newspaper were leading campaigners to save the estate, others in the profession took an opposite view. In 2007 a consultant report recommended that a Certificate of Immunity from Listing should be granted, allowing Tower Hamlets to proceed with plans for demolition and tenders for redevelopment. The campaign to list the estate failed and the Certificate was issued in 2009 with the then minister responsible, Margaret Hodge, arguing, improbably, that a digital model of the estate would be sufficient for posterity.
An underlying concern remained: could whatever is intended to replace Robin Hood Gardens come anywhere near the level of architectural significance and influence of the original?
When the immunity had expired in 2014, a second campaign tried again to save the estate, with vigorous support from Richard Rogers, arguing “public appreciation and understanding of the value of modernist architecture has grown over the past five years, making the case for listing stronger than ever.” The campaign failed, as Historic England once again refused to recommend the estate for listing. A second five-year Certificate of Immunity from Listing was granted, but this time plans for the future of this site are well underway and demolition is imminent.