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Robin Hood Gardens: The Aesthetic Politics of Listed Buildings

Brookes, Ed



Robin Hood Gardens (RHG) was a brutalist social housing estate in Poplar, East London, built in 1972 by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson, and since 2017 has been undergoing demolition to be turned into luxury flats as part of the Blackwall Reach Development scheme. Its recent trajectory has followed a similar pattern of state led gentrification experienced by many other inner-city housing estates; with a history of managed decline, public stigmatisation and private sector redevelopment (Lindner & Sandoval, Citation2021; Thoburn, Citation2022; Watt, Citation2021; Watt & Smets, Citation2017). However, what makes the estate worthy of discussion is the central role that listing, art and heritage have played in the site’s gentrification; especially the ways in which they have been mobilised to disempower those that lived on the estate. In this case, I wish to focus on the campaign to list RHG and the discussions between institutions who wanted to preserve it, which included; the C20 Society (Preservation charity focused on preserving 20th century architecture) and the Victoria & Albert Museum, alongside those who felt it was not worth saving; Historic England (English Heritage until 2015), Tower Hamlets (TH) Council and the Department for Digital Media, Culture and Sport. By focusing on the debate between these institutions I want to contribute to this special issue’s concern with the complexity of engagement surrounding arts and planning and the use of arts and heritage as an economic strategy. In particular I engage with the aesthetic politics surrounding the estate’s immunity from listing and how competing narratives of value associated with housing have led to the appropriation of the site as an art/cultural artefact which has subsequently undermined the area’s community use.


Brookes, E. (2023). Robin Hood Gardens: The Aesthetic Politics of Listed Buildings. Planning Theory & Practice, 24(3), 391-393.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 22, 2023
Online Publication Date Aug 4, 2023
Publication Date May 27, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 28, 2024
Journal Planning Theory & Practice
Print ISSN 1464-9357
Electronic ISSN 1470-000X
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 3
Pages 391-393
Keywords Geography, Planning and Development
Public URL


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