Preservation of the historically significant buildings is deeply rooted in English culture.
In the 19th century, William Morris and Philip Webb created a manifesto as a direct response to the religious revival followed by restoration of old cathedrals and churches. Manifesto addressed larger scale issue with restoration approach of that era, which was more destructive than previous wars. Manifesto seeks to discuss the fundamental difference between protection and restoration, recognizing that buildings change and adapt over time and that concept of trying to get them back to some idea of the original is misguided.
The use of the term “forgery” implies that replacing the original with something that only represents the existing is destroying the history of it. Instead, the manifesto proposes conservative repairs, a gentle approach to the old buildings that embed our collective history, the SPAB society is to guide such processes. To be able to fully understand this statement Morris uses an analogy of a “gap” to explain what is being caused by the current approach.(Morris, 1877) Listing recognises the need for the architecture to be enjoyed both from inside and outside, as such protection principles concentrate on visual changes of the exterior predominantly.
For this reason, buildings intended original use could be altered and adapted to more contemporary use. Historical buildings were given increasingly new uses since 1967. (Environment, 1975) Could Robin Hood Gardens have been renovated? Whilst it’s fair to say that almost any building constructed and surviving in anything like it’s original format prior to 1840 is listed, anything that receives a listing that was built after the 1950s has to be an outstanding example of it’s time. Opinions on modern structures are often polarised, some buildings are revered because of their architectural prowess, whilst the same building may be viewed as a ugly carbuncle by others..In 1972, one of the London’s most recognisable social housing estate, Robin Hood Gardens was complete. Featuring ‘streets in the sky’ to retain social interaction of the terraced London houses.
Revolutionary architectural innovation became a symbol of what social architecture could be, establishing a high reputational status of Peter and Alison Smithson, one of the best British architects of te modern Britain. As described by Richard Rogers in letter addressed to architectural communities around Britain, Robin Hood Gardens was in his opinion “the most important social housing development from the post-war era in Britain” (Rogers, 2015) Despite the social and architectural triumph, Smithsons’ masterpiece failed several attempts to get listed and prevent facing demolition. Rogers initiated a campaign to save Robin Hood gardens together with Simon Smithson, son of Peter and Alison Smithson after listing immunity expired after six years ago, after being granted by Andy Burnham, Secretary of Culture. Accompanied with 20th Century Society, an organisation responsible for the protection of modern architecture, he warned new Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage that demolishing demolition this building would be a crime like act, a loss for the entire nation.
Despite the best efforts to get Robin Hood Garden listed, the building faced with inevitable faith got demolished.Ahead of the demolition, Victoria and Albert Museum successfully obtained a partial façade with an apartment of the Robin Hood Gardens. Achieved in exchange for the financial contribution for the demolition, the museum was able to preserve a physical memory of the housing estate.
Neil Bingham, a curator of the V, reiterating the importance and the significance of the estate by “The Smithsons rather dominated the period, maybe not in a number of buildings they did but in terms of the power of their thoughts on architecture” (HILBURG, 2017). It can be seen from the above that Robin Hood Gardens should not have been demolished. Buildings are being listed so that the generations to come can benefits from its heritage, as they create a window into the past.Economical aspect of renovation and preservation is becoming increasingly dominant factor within the political circles. Current state of planning causes harm to build heritage and presents us with economical absurdity. Both historical and modern buildings represent imbedded capital and resources that are being overlooked by planning authorities.
Architectural qualities and significance of the buildings are being inadequately evaluated by people responsible for its protection. (Binney et al., 1991)