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Old August 16th, 2007, 02:20 PM   #1
DarJoLe
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Blackwall Reach £1.5bn Regeneration | Tower Hamlets | Demo + U/C

AJplus.co.uk
Published 16 August 2007 at 11:33
Blackwall Reach development framework jumps first hurdle



Tower Hamlets Council (THC) has given the green light to the Blackwall Reach draft development framework, paving the way for the south-east London area’s regeneration.

Prepared by THC and English Partnerships, the framework – on which Horden Cherry Lee Architects has been working with Capita Symonds – will now provide the basis for a three-month public consultation period.

Blackwall Reach is the area bounded by East India Dock Road to the north, the Blackwall Tunnel Approach and East India Docks to the east, Aspen Way to the south and Cotton Street to the west. The area also takes in Robin Hood Gardens.

In a statement, THC said the consultation will ‘gather the broadest possible range of views and aspirations from local residents and key community stakeholders on proposals in the document, which includes options to either retain or redevelop Robin Hood Gardens.’

The project website can be found at www.blackwallreach.co.uk and a ‘community gathering’ to discuss the proposals is planned for Saturday 22 September.

by Max Thompson

Major changes:
The first is whether Robin Hood Gardens should be retained or demolished. The second is the extent to which the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel should be covered to provide extra land for development.

Robin Hood Gardens
Retaining Robin Hood Gardens would reduce the total number of new homes that can be built on the site and also reduces the amount of funds available for community facilities such as schools, health-care and recreation buildings.

If Robin Hood Gardens is retained it would need to be renovated to the Government’s basic Decent Homes Standard. This would require significant work to be undertaken within each apartment, which is likely to involve the tenants having to move to alternative accommodation.

Covering the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel
By covering the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel entrance, noise and air pollution would be reduced across Blackwall Reach and it would help improve links to the Mulberry Place and East India Dock area.

The construction of a cover, known as a deck, over the approach to the tunnel would be expensive, but these costs could be offset by building apartments on the deck. Reducing the extent of the cover, would reduce the total number of new homes which could be built and would reduce the funds available for community facilities.

Option 1: KEEPING Robin Hood Gardens, refurbishing the buildings
The image below is a sketch of the regeneration site if Option 1 is preferred. The existing buildings of Robin Hood Gardens are in brown.



Main elements
  • Robin Hood Gardens would be refurbished
  • Smaller buildings to the south of Woolmore Street would be removed to increase the available public space
  • The buildings over the Blackwall Tunnel approach would be smaller than proposed in Option 2 so they better match the size of Robin Hood Gardens
  • Total number of residential units would be lower than for Option 2, which reduces the funding for new community facilities

Option 2: REPLACING Robin Hood Gardens
The image below is a sketch of the regeneration site if Option 2 is preferred.



Main elements
Main elements
  • Robin Hood Gardens would be demolished and replaced with new high quality housing, allowing the central green space to be enlarged
  • A section of the Blackwall Tunnel Approach would be covered as in Option 1
  • A larger number of new residential units are proposed for the Tunnel Approach as they would no longer need to match the size of Robin Hood Gardens
  • The larger number of units would offset development costs and contribute the maximum amount of funding towards community facilities elsewhere on the site

Key events:
August 2007 – COMPLETE
London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) approves proposed options for consultation
August 2007
Consultation website and helpline launched
August 2007
Publicity for consultation project begins with delivery of postcard with details of consultation website and helpline
August 2007
Door to door visits by project team to discuss proposals with residents
September 2007
Regeneration workshop is held at Blackwall Reach
Spring 2008
Based on the outcome of the consultation the final plan is developed for approval by LBTH
Late Spring 2008
Planning application submitted for the final regeneration plan
Late Spring 2008
Second phase of public consultation on the formal planning application for the regeneration
Summer 2008
Decision on planning application
Late 2008
Start on site (subject to planning approval)
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Old August 16th, 2007, 02:29 PM   #2
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Robin Hood Gardens

From wikipedia:

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, and as a British response to projects like Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation. However, there were problems both with the quality of construction and the general design of the estate, which was plagued by crime. The project is generally regarded as a failure and the Smithsons' architectural career never quite recovered.
The estate covers about 2 hectares and consists of two long blocks, one of ten stories, 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 within sight of the nearby Balfron Tower.

Alison and Peter Smithson's Golden Lane project, polemically debated at CIAM in 1956, can be seen as both a highpoint and repudiation of British Modernism. While it innovates furiously, and participates in debates begun by Le Corbusier's streets in his Unite d'Habitation, it is fundamentally an attack on the purism and anti-urbanism of their predecessors. They would centre on the street, rather than the spaced, radiant zeilenbau or the garden city. This would try and replicate the working class community, not in a static sense, but with a nod towards what Ruth Glass called 'the comradeship of the crowded urban block.' Their development would be dense, it would be urban, and while it would unashamedly house the poor, be part of the new welfare state's safety net, it would be glamorous. In short, it would be Pop. An architectural equivalent to their comrade in the Independent Group Richard Hamilton's montage What is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? with its images of consumer technology, Americanism and easy-access eroticism. An architecture both of austerity and abundance, in line with the contradictions of the post-1945 melange of Socialism and Capitalism that created the post-war boom, accentuating the most fertile features of both.



Archinet.com
"Utopian Modernism in London : A Series of Drifts... "

Alison and Peter Smithson, Robin Hood Gardens 1966-1972



Alternatively, take the Docklands Light Railway to Blackwall and walk around Robin Hood Gardens, the late 1960s development where the Smithsons finally had free rein to build their streets in the sky. It's undeniably impressive: fortress-like, daringly sculptural, raw concrete gleaming in a manner that could suggest glamour if the setting were not so dispiriting, being so perilously close to the thunderous Blackwall tunnel. Two networks of internal streets and flats, akin in their grandiosity to Vienna's Karl-Marx-Hof, which famously served as a Communist stronghold in the 1934 Austrian Civil War. Robin Hood Gardens looks like a stronghold, but one can't imagine anyone defending it right now. In its centre, an artificial hill is topped with burnt furniture. In nearby Bethnal Green are some more successful streets in the sky, Denys Lasdun's Keeling House. Here, the Council, unable to afford its upkeep, sold up to developers, the rich moved in, the rents soared, it became a 'success.' But for now Robin Hood Gardens is still social housing, and as such is an embarrassment. The contradictions from which the Smithsons took their force are absent--the place is still a 'sink estate,' its radicalism a faded reminder of dreams and other futures we could have chosen.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 02:33 PM   #3
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I vote for Option 2.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 02:40 PM   #4
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I vote for neither.

I would like to see one part of Robin Hood Gardens kept, refurbished by Urban Splash and brought back to the vision that the original architects intended, whilst allowing the growth of option 2.

The building is brutal, yet has a horizontal quality about it that hasn't been realised enough what with so many vertical buildings going up around it. Add to that being an example of the previous generation of architecture appearing within an area undergoing massive change with 21st century glass structures, I vote to use it as a real landmark for the development.

An example of the 'London iconic juxtaposition' if ever I saw one.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 02:50 PM   #5
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No park?Shame.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 03:59 PM   #6
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Isnt that a park in the middle?
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Old August 16th, 2007, 05:49 PM   #7
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On a related not theres a scoping opinion submitted recently to TH for the island site opposite this site on the other side of Aspen Way. Not sure if it relates to this or the planned bridge over Apsen way or for some other large development as you can't seem to access scoping opinions on TH website anymore.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 05:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mulattokid View Post
Isnt that a park in the middle?
Communal Gardens.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 07:34 PM   #9
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http://www.hughpearman.com/articles5/smithsons.html
Hugh Pearman has written an interesting article on the Smithson’s in which he comments,

“They didn't build much, and a lot of it went wrong. Why was everyone convinced they were so good?”

“Robin Hood Gardens, a 213-home council housing complex in East London, gave them the chance to practise what they preached on a grand scale. It was disastrous. The brutalist concrete structure turned out to be defective, but the social aspects were worse: Robin Hood Gardens became a hotbed of crime. The Smithsons were exposed as both arrogant and fallible. Their reputation never recovered in Britain, and though they later added modest buildings to Bath University, they were never trusted with such a large public project again”.

Frankly, for anyone who’s ever visited it, the best part is the hill in the middle. It's a brutal building surrounded by a brutal road environment, I can't understand what there is to discuss, demolish it A.S.A.P.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 08:10 PM   #10
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I have to agree with DarJoLe there are not that many examples of the brutalism of the Smithsons in London and all the ones i can think of have been listed (Trellick Towers, Barbican) and even the ones outside London (Park Hill) are listed but being refurbished as per Urban Splash.

Yes they may have been derided and the building left to rot and decay but look at what can be done if the locals care about the area they live my prime examples again being the Barbican and Trellick. And ones where the people didn't care as Park Hill and the neighbouring developments but this is now changing.
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Old August 17th, 2007, 01:24 AM   #11
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Studying architecture in a Smithson designed building (Architecture Dept at University of Bath) i have to say they have a certain charm but i think they're very hard for newcomers to architectural theory and the general public to understand and accept. As architecture much of the Smithsons works are failures, pure and simple, but interesting failures worth keeping (at least to some degree). I think they have missed a real opportunity to reinterpret Robin Hood Gardens in their proposals, even the one option that intends to preserve the estate fails it seems to rectify the many issues that led it to fall into its current state.
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Old August 17th, 2007, 04:41 AM   #12
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for those interested in more detailed information:
http://modgov.towerhamlets.gov.uk/Pu...FworkAppx1.pdf
interesting eg. the phasing timetable on page 28 - its gonna take until 2015 to be completly finished but the highrises in the south gonna start already by the end of next year
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Old August 17th, 2007, 04:47 AM   #13
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and if the models on page 26+29 are to be trusted the 2 office towers gonna rise about as high as the planned higher brother for Ontario tower nearby
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Old September 19th, 2007, 08:52 AM   #14
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hows this for density at the south -

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Old September 19th, 2007, 12:01 PM   #15
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But this still isn't fixing the main problems as to why this area will never be attractive - it's an absolute disaster at street level.

It's almost a piece of downtown LA in London - highway on stilts, high rise with no pedestrian friendly bases, the river completely cut off out of view thanks to riverside development.

This scheme simply doesn't go far enough and I'd like the Mayor to intervene to bring a new perspective to this.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 02:04 PM   #16
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Its a little strange the models don't include the pedestrian/cycle bridge thats supposed to cross Aspen way as thats A TH/Tfl initiative as well.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 02:42 PM   #17
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The stretch of land that will become the covered portion of the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel, if the planners had any sense, would be the perfect place to site a ramp that leads to a 'shooting bridge' across the A13 and then coils down around the Blackwall Tunnel ventilation shaft and into the road that leads to New Providence Wharf.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 04:16 PM   #18
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What does it matter whether it has a "horizontal quality" if it is irredeemably hideous? A hole in the ground would be an improvement. The same applies to the other so-called good brutalist buildings. If you want a memorial to this horrible movement, publish a book of photographs. It is cruel and unreasonable to expect other people to look at these disasters.

It is so patronising to say that people "don't understand" brutalism. I have a fair understanding of the rationale behind it, just as I have a fair understanding of the impulses behind paedophilia, and just as I don't want to get a deeper understanding of the "pleasures" of paedophilia from deep study and personal experience, I don't want to have my aesthetic sensibilities degraded to the point where I like this type of vileness.

Last edited by Philip Cronin; September 19th, 2007 at 04:28 PM.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 04:47 PM   #19
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The refurbishment of the Brunswick Centre proves that brutalist buildings can be successful when brought back to how they were originally intended to be used.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 01:18 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarJoLe View Post
But this still isn't fixing the main problems as to why this area will never be attractive - it's an absolute disaster at street level.

It's almost a piece of downtown LA in London - highway on stilts, high rise with no pedestrian friendly bases, the river completely cut off out of view thanks to riverside development.

This scheme simply doesn't go far enough and I'd like the Mayor to intervene to bring a new perspective to this.
well, i wouldn't have such a negative view on this development - ok, it's never gonna be absolut high end - yes, theres a highway and the rivers blocked from view - but guess what? Most people/developments dont even have a river around at all and here they are only a few hundred meters away and the planned aspen way footbridge gonna give nice access in due time. At the same time they have two DLR stations (one north/south, one east/west) right at their doorstep or within walking range. And probably most important - they are within walking range of Canary Wharf - so this can be a more modestly priced alternative for those people who don't have bonuses coming out of their ears but still working there.

And for the criticism on the scheme itself - you mentioned earlier that you would want to have one side of the Robin Hood estate preserved. That might be nice in terms of conserving this beloved brutalist style of yours but i don't see how this would improve the estate for the people who live there. And about pedestrian friendly bases for the highrises - i don't know if its possible to judge that at this early planning stage. So why the hell would the mayor have to intervene on this? In what why should this thing go further?
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