Robin Hood Gardens

Robin Hood gardens, London: Case Study

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General outline

Robin Hood Gardens is a council housing complex in Poplar, London designed in the late 1960s by architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972. It was intended as an example of the 'streets in the sky' concept: social housing characterised by broad aerial walkways in long concrete blocks, much like the Park Hill estate in Sheffield, and as a British response to projects like Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation.

The estate covers about two hectares and consists of two long blocks, one of ten storeys, the other of seven, built from precast concrete slabs and containing 213 flats, surrounding a landscaped green area and a small hill made from construction spoil. The flats themselves are a mixture of single-storey apartments and two-storey maisonettes, with wide balconies (the 'streets') on every third floor. The complex is located near Blackwall DLR station within sight of the nearby Balfron Tower.

The site is in the East end of London and is particularly noisy, being sited between major roads and a motorway tunnel. The layout comprises of two large of straight blocks running north to south on either side of the side encompassing the a large green open space between the blocks, the aim being to minimise noise within the enclosed space. The Smithson’s approach and ambition is highlighted by the following. ‘at the new city scale making a garden should be like making a range of hills’ and ‘the approach to a house is occupants’ link with society as a whole… this is what really matters.’

Public space….

The open space decks located on the street side of the blocks were designed with chance encounters in mind ‘Two women with prams can stop and talk without blocking the flow…’
In terms of the floor plan, the kitchen and dining levels are at entrance level. Above and below, the bedrooms are located on the quiet side of the block overlooking the central space. The living rooms were on the noisier street side of the block.

The 213 apartments were designed to the minimum Parker Morris space standards of the time.

See also

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