Robin Hood Gardens is in the middle of being demolished... Have you seen the designs for what'll go in it's place? It'll never get built, or no one can afford to live in it.
It’s hard to keep up with what is and isn’t being demolished these days. I don’t remember the designs exactly but I can guess; glass, too much glass and metal struts and a phallic desire for things to be ridiculously tall, insanely expensive penthouses, sexy renderings of coffee shops and affluent couples walking around mature trees. Something a bit Dubai, a glass box with poor-quality wooden cladding and some sop to being mixed-use.
I’ll go take a look. Yep, glassy, ethereally-rendered blocks of pure architectural boredom. Hong Kong meets BA Architecture at a low-rate university.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply! :) I don't think "ugliness" is a concern for the RIBA judging panel: architects don't have the same aesthetic tastes as the majority of people, and most love saving "ugly" heritage (i.e. Robin Hood Gardens). So personally I think PH actually stands a good chance of winning (though personally I don't think it deserves to win). But I like the Chapel best too! The materials are used really well there.
We’ll save ugliness for the Carbuncle Cup. I think the main thing I appreciate about Park Hill is it sets an example for how we can convert Brutalist and other mid-century buildings instead of demolishing them. Just from doing some of Pevsner’s perambulations in Southampton it seems crazy how many buildings were under-construction or just built when the book was published (in 1967) and have now been demolished and replaced by ugly, ‘docklands’-style blocks of mid-2000s flats.
We can go different ways about preserving Brutalist heritage, there’s the South Bank method (before the most recent plans) of maintaining the original buildings and plans and using them well, the Brunswick Centre method of smartening up, painting and improving the existing buildings to take them more up-market and now we have the Park Hill method of gutting the place and building a 2010s block of flats inside. It’s a good thing it worked but it worries me that it may be repeated elsewhere on a smaller budget with meaner architects. We’ll see what happens to Robin Hood Gardens and Preston Bus Station and the like and what inventive ways we can find to re-use them. What a fun challenge!
What do you think about Park Hill's nomination for this year's Stirling Prize?
It’s a tricky one this. First-off my favourite from the short-list is actually Bishop Edward King Chapel so I won’t be making a case for Park Hill to win the Stirling Prize. That said, Park Hill has been saved from demolition and converted into a practical and attractive building. The problem with Brutalism has always been that the vast majority of people think Brutalist buildings are ugly, and who’s to blame them, their beauty is in their starkness, truthfulness to materials and simplicity. Most people wouldn’t take these things into account when judging the aesthetics of a building, the man on the street is no architecture critic. My mum hates the South Bank and has no time for appreciating anything concrete and show her the before-and-after shots of Park Hill and she would think it was a vast improvement, as do, I’m sure, the residents of the new development.
Looking at the interiors of the new flats I have to say they look wonderful, full of light and height and space. The exterior is certainly more cheerful but looks a bit ‘Gunwharf Quays’ for my taste, I probably would have preferred something more low-key and plain but that’s not really the Urban Splash way. I’ve got no doubt that some Sheffield socialists are angry about gentrification and in an ideal world we could have preserved the original Park Hill but given the choice between demolition and modernisation I’ll go for the latter.
There’s still plenty of concrete to enjoy, I wouldn’t mind living there and it certainly does seem deserving of a Stirling nomination.