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; it was both informed by, and a reaction against, Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation.


The estate is owned by Tower Hamlets Council. It 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. It is within sight of the nearby Balfron Tower; both are highly visible examples of Brutalist architecture.


Preservation status

A campaign was mounted in 2008 by Building Design magazine and the Twentieth Century Society to get Robin Hood Gardens listed as a historical landmark in order to save it from destruction, with support from Richard Rogers and Zaha Hadid. However, English Heritage did not back the proposal, with its commissioners overruling the advice of its own advisory committee.


The campaign to save Robin Hood Gardens drew very little support from those who actually had to live in the building, with more than 75% of residents supporting its demolition when consulted by the local authority.


In May 2009 the Minister of Culture, Andy Burnham, issued his decision not to list this estate and also granted a Certificate of Immunity from listing which means that the structure cannot be considered for listing for at least 5 years. This ministerial decision endorses the recommendation of English Heritage that Robin Hood Gardens is unfit for listing and does not deserve statutory heritage protection, leaving the way open for Tower Hamlets Council to proceed with its demolition and redevelopment.


A resident's own survey, published in Building Design in June 2009, found that 80% of residents wanted it refurbished. In October 2009, opposition councillor Tim Archer accused the Council of ignoring maintenance problems to encourage residents to move out.


Redevelopment plans

The Council has declared the site part of a larger regeneration area named Blackwall Reach, bounded by East India Dock Road to the north, the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach and East India Docks to the east, Aspen Way to the south and Cotton Street to the west. It plans to provide 1,600 new homes in this area along with improvements to the primary school, a new park and other community facilities.


In April 2010, Tower Hamlets shortlisted groups of architects, housing associations and developers to undertake the £500 million project.


Before the final announcement, the designs for replacement buildings were condemned in The Guardian as "generic developers' fare, with... no sense of place".