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Robin Hood backers win latest round in fight to save concrete jungle'

PUBLISHED: 18:46 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 05 October 2010

Robin Hood Gardens... loved and loathed

Robin Hood Gardens... loved and loathed

LOVE it or loathe it—but controversial 1960s Robin Hood Gardens by the Blackwall Tunnel entrance in East London could get a reprieve. Tower Hamlets council wants to knock down the concrete jungle which is home to 264 families and rehouse them in modern homes as part of a massive Blackwall Reach regeneration scheme in this run-down corner of London's East End

Julia Gregory

LOVE it or loathe it—but controversial 1960s Robin Hood Gardens by the Blackwall Tunnel entrance in East London could get a reprieve.

Tower Hamlets council wants to knock down the concrete jungle which is home to 264 families and rehouse them in modern homes as part of a massive Blackwall Reach regeneration scheme in this run-down corner of London’s East End.

The Culture Minister Margaret Hodge turned down requests earlier this year to get the massive block of flats listed’ and protected from the bulldozers—despite the great and the good’ of the world of architecture demanding that Robin Hood Gardens be saved.

The 20th Century Society lobbied for the decision to be reconsidered.

Now it has won the chance for experts to look at the block again.

A final answer could to take up to five months, which at best will delay any demolition for the time being.

Architect Lord Richard Rogers, who designed the Millennium Dome at Greenwich, told the Department of Culture in Whitehall that it would be “a real tragedy and a terrible mistake to demolish this important and extraordinary piece of modern architecture.”

Robin Hood Gardens was designed by husband and wife team Peter and Alison Smithson and finished in 1972.

They had a vision to create streets in the sky’ with space for kids to play along the walkways and with green open space in front of the flats.

The 20th Century Society’s Jon Wright said: “The arguments we made for the international importance of Robin Hood Gardens and the arguments we made against it being a failure as social housing were the two main points for looking at it again.”

The issue has also divided the community, as well as the architectural world.

Some of the families living there say lack of maintenance over the years has left the estate with problems, especially the damp.

Others, like Shirley Magnitsky, want to see the building listed.

“The accommodation is really good,” she says. “It’s good plenty of light, good windows and the balconies are really big. Children can play out there with all the people watching.”

Some think the reason the authorities want to tear down Robin Hood Gardens is its prime location just off the A13 East India Dock Road—right on the doorstep of Canary Wharf and just 15 minutes from the Tower of London on the Docklands Light Railway.

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