A Poetry of the Ordinary: Life in Alison & Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens, 1972

Set within the wider framework of “Living Anatomy: an Exhibition about Housing,” this exhibition focuses on ‘Robin Hood Gardens’ – Alison and Peter Smithson’s housing project in East London, completed in 1972. Threatened with demolition yet again, despite an ongoing campaign that still hopes to secure its preservation, Robin Hood Gardens stands today with broken windows, vandalized corridors, crippling facades, and a fractured public reputation. While deteriorating with neglect barely 50 years after its completion, this project’s architecture is still striking in its sense of livelihood and innovation.

Consisting of 213 apartments organized in two long, curved building blocks with a central, topographically-morphed green space between them, Robin Hood Gardens was planned with an ambition for human interaction and association. Drawing on original materials from the Alison and Peter Smithson Archive, part of the Special Collections of the Frances Loeb Library, the detailed drawings, documents, and photographs shown here highlight the social experimentalism that stands at the base of this influential project. Never intended to be a photogenic exemplar of modern housing, Robin Hood Gardens remains a provocative and brave new form, a place with an extraordinary character that is capable of offering its residents an ordinarily poetic life.