31-10-2018

Biennale Architettura 2018. Robin Hood Gardens. A Ruin in Reverse

Alison and Peter Smithson,

Venice, Italy, London,

Housing, Biennale di Venezia, Pavilions,

Exhibition, Do Ho Ho Suh,

Visitors have another few months to see the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.



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Biennale Architettura 2018. Robin Hood Gardens. A Ruin in Reverse Visitors have another few months to see the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. And they can visit Robin Hood Gardens at the Arsenale. A Ruin in Reverse, curated by The Victoria & Albert Museum presents a salvaged section of the façade of Robin Hood Gardens, the condemned Brutalist housing estate by Alison and Peter Smithson.


Livegreenblog has been following the Brutalist architecture debate for years, along with how some of its examples can and should be saved, from the discussions around the Y-Block in Oslo (link) that even has wall art by Picasso through to Le Vele in Naples at the SOS Brutalism exhibition in Frankfurt (link). It’s a theme that even touched the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia: Particular proof of this lies in the installation curated by the V&A Museum at the Arsenale, called Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin in Reverse.
Robin Hood Gardens was the culmination of 20 years of research into social housing by the architects Alison Smithson (1928 - 1993) and Peter Smithson (1923 - 2003). In 2017, just before demolition of the estate began, the V&A decided to save and preserve a three-storey section of each façade and the interior fittings of two flats. The resulting fragment will take its place in its national collection of architecture as an internationally significant example of Brutalism. 
So while a building that was controversially denied protection by listing is being demolished, three storeys of the original façade, purchased by the V&A, were reassembled at the Arsenale, outside the Pavilion of Applied Arts.
A sculpture weighing approximately eight tons, designed by ARUP, who engineered the original building, with muf architecture/art, who first proposed the V&A’s acquisition of the fragment.  This structure allows visitors to stand on an original section of the elevated access deck designed by the Smithsons to foster interaction between neighbours and promote community. A response to the theme for the 2018 Biennale, FREESPACE which, in the words of Irish architects and curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, “encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the wellbeing and dignity of each citizen of this fragile planet”.
Inside the Pavilion is a specially commissioned installation by artist Do Ho Ho Suh showing a panoramic portrait of the architecture and interiors of the 1972 estate. Through archival film and images, the exhibition explores the utopian vision of the Smithsons, and in documentary interviews architects, critics and residents offer their analysis of the legacy left by Robin Hood Gardens and offer their ideas on the future of social housing

Robin Hood Gardens. A Ruin in Reverse marks the return of the estate designed by the Smithsons to the Biennale in Venice where it was exhibited in the 37th International Art Exhibition in 1976. Sticks and Stones included a billboard-size photograph of Robin Hood Gardens shortly after completion, and a bench based on one of the concrete columns that articulate the façade of the building. “A building under assembly is a ruin in reverse”, wrote the Smithsons. 42 years later, the estate has become a real ruin, and the exhibition curated by the V&A Museum for the Architecture Biennale wonders what we can learn from its ideals and fate.

Christiane Bürklein

Exhibition Robin Hood Gardens. A Ruin in Reverse
curated by the V&A Museum
during the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 
Arsenale, Venice
26 May to 25 November 2018
Find out more: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/la-biennale-di-venezia-2018
https://www.labiennale.org
Images: © The Victoria and Albert Museum, 2018 e courtesy La Biennale 
Robin Hood Gardens, completed 1972, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson © The Victoria and Albert Museum

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