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Exhibition shines light on the lives of Robin Hood Gardens residents

17 Oct 2016

An extraordinary exhibition of photographs, organised by the School of Social Sciences, records the lives of residents at Robin Hood Gardens, the experimental Brutalist council estate by pioneering British architects Alison and Peter Smithson, in the estate's last years before demolition

Completed in 1972, the 'streets in the sky' development has long been described as a 'sink estate' and a 'concrete monstrosity'. Against such representations, and the social cleansing agenda they serve, photographer Kois Miah and Sociology lecturer Nick Thoburn have chronicled the complex lives, emotions, and routines of the estate’s residents.

Few council estates have been photographed as much as Robin Hood Gardens, but not since Sandra Lousada’s iconic early photographs of the estate have its residents featured as more than occasional bit-players. This exhibition places them at the centre by presenting an intimate exploration of their lives.

“Of course, the photographs feature the astonishing architecture of the estate: the concrete textures, inorganic shapes and monumental scale of its Brutalist form, and the abundant light of its interiors,” said Nick. “However, the building is accompaniment to the portraits - rarely the main show.”

“Our project places residents at centre stage in this set of portraits and interviews,” added Kois. “We have explored their relationships and experiences of living and socialising on this estate, many of whom have lived there for decades.”

‘Lived Brutalism: Portraits at Robin Hood Gardens’ takes place a stone’s throw from Robin Hood Gardens, at St Matthias Community Centre (113 Poplar High Street, London E14 0AE) until 21 October.

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