West tower RHG – Estudio Ibanez

West tower RHG

This series documents the demolition of the west tower of Robin Hood Gardens. It is framed in a wider photographic investigation about the Blackwall Reach regeneration project, which aims to understand, from an unbiased approach, the many layers of complexity surrounding this regeneration project.

Finished in 1972, after being entirely demolished, Robin Hood Gardens will have last less than 50 years. When the Blackwall Reach Regeneration project is completed, part of this regeneration site will have contained four different housing schemes in less than 150 years. For reasons ranging from apparent design and construction flaws to various political and economic contexts, three different housing building typologies contained in this site will have already been demolished. How will this new regeneration project be seen in 50 years from now?

The lack of maintenance Robin Hood Gardens suffered over decades expresses how, in many ways, the demolition of this iconic housing estate was a ‘chronicle of a death foretold’. Its detractors cast doubts over the architectural and heritage value of the project, especially after it failed twice to be listed by English Heritage, and argue that the high cost of refurbishment would have jeopardised its social housing role, often using the nearby Balfron tower as an example. A denser comprehensive redevelopment would allow to cross-fund through market housing a higher number of affordable and social housing, and increase the quality of local services and infrastructure, raising the overall quality of life of its inhabitants. On the other hand, the defenders of Robin Hood Gardens argue that the building was not only of great physical importance but also was an outstanding and bold example of the vision of an era, which raised the living conditions of people and continues to inspire architects and urban planners around the world.

Facing its death, this series depicts the building in different mutated conditions, from an abandoned ruin to its complete demolition, proposing an emotional approach while questioning what is considered heritage, how it is preserved, and the local narratives of our built environment. Unexpected section cuts brutally reveal not only the building structure and construction layers, but also the intimacy of previously inhabited interiors, bringing up new layers of information to the debate that has surrounded this regeneration project, and raising additional questions and possibly ideas regarding ‘if it was worth to’ and ‘how could (part of) this project’ been retained. In the middle of this debate, these images present and challenges the inevitable conflict between regeneration and heritage, local character and public memory.

Each image is part of a limited edition of ten 40×56 cm prints and two artist proofs. Each print is signed and numbered, and issued with a signed certificate of authenticity.