If you really want to know about all this brutal mess and its review in the architectural context, then I’ll start everything from the very beginning. In fact, not from the very beginning, but from 1757, when little William was born in the family of Mr. James Black, a man who used to sell second-hand clothes. Back then, obviously nobody knew anything about his future, therefore he was taken to school to become at least literate. The child, at the same time, obviously was talented at painting. In the very early childhood, he read the Bible and dedicated his whole works to this topic, he was absolutely under the influence of religious characters. He started working with free, rough lines, sculpted strong brutal characters, so not to mention visitors, even he himself was frightened of his heroes’ eyes. Initially, William painted, then he started to write poems and finally turned to engraving. Holy God saw, he could actually do it really well, thus he was fond of it all.
Young Blake was instantly noticed at king’s court. It was said: there is one boy, who paints religious topics absolutely differently and was worth seeing. He was appointed and left at the king’s palace. He was claimed to paint roughly, but as well as that was believed to be mad himself, but as people were afraid of his religious paintings, he became handy. William became more big-headed and his characters were more and more depressing, while colours- impressive.
William Blake became a great man – pride of his father and the country. He left the world great treasure, a very unique one. He proved that beauty might be in roughness as well and the most depressing work might provoke an emotion that will never be forgotten. He turned the concept of beauty upside down and then, at the end of summer 1827 he passed out with dignity, after so many stormy years.
Amost 2 centuries have passed since then. England has changed, only the weather remained to be as sour as before. On one such rainy day, two students were hurriedly walking in the empty corridor of Durham University. The girl seemed to be arguing, while the boy was silent.
These students were Alison and Peter Smithson. Apparently, they had already decided to get married, as the girl was continuously speaking about opening their own architectural company after the wedding, working on different rojects and other womanly bla-bla-bla. Suddenly Peter was awoken after hearing the work “rough”. There was anger and excitement at the same time in Elison’s eyes, even her voice revealed her over-agitation. She was mentioning that their workshop would be absolutely different, they would show others what real beauty was, not a clean, polished structure, but a heavy mess made from rough material, which could be as wonderful as morning-picked, still succulent peaches. Peter realised that this was not an ordinary woman talking and a demon seemed to have settled in Elison, a creature which was hungry for change, a ferocious one. At the time, William Blake, too, was like this, he always painted demons, inordinate creatures, who will demolish everything in a bit.
WhileSmithsons were planning to create the most dangerous and rough building, in the foggy albion, some other people had already been building such constructions. Every single time Peter became very jealous as he did not want anybody to be better than them, but Elison who was a demon used to calm him down with patience and reassure that those buildings would be nothing compared to the one they were creating.
And that day come:
They finished planning Robin Hood Garden residential houses and until the construction was completed in 1972, they would nervously run on the site and nervously control all the processes. As soon as they saw the final result, they calmed down. Not only did they calm down, but they almost received a stroke with joy – they had not seen anything so depressing. It was rough, powerful, brutal and it was the evil spirit, a hack based in London’s Poplar district.
If you want a brief description of this building, I will inform you: built in 1960-1972, it covers two hectares of land. Consists of two: seven and ten-storey blocks, 203 houses are located with wide terraces and corridorsas the idea stems from ”Streets in the Sky” and is contrary to Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation.
The husband and wife themselves were not interested in further reactions at all. With Hunstanton’s schools and also the influential magazine – The Economist’s buildings, they already had a good soil prepared and knew the critics, ruled by brutal fashion, would write sweet words about this construction, about how it destroyed the traditional concept of beauty and with its harshness depicted a whole new wonder and a mess of other meaningless words.
In any case, the Smithsons really got away with this project. When they got old, they used to work with pleasure in the streets of London at the weekend and look at their monster children with pride, with tears in their eyes. Their opinions remained unchanged: more Brutalism, more bad manners!
Forty years have passed since Robin Hood Garden- this huge monster breathes in this region, it is the real Robin Hood, but the garden is more of an impassable concrete forest.
As for the fate of these structures in modern times: since 2010 it is being rehabilitated and new project is being prepared. 500 million pounds was invested in inviting architects and designers who will create a new project with housing, recreation parks, schools and kindergartens.
As it turned out, the brutal works of William Blake gained a status of being unique even in this century, Smitson’s monster on the other hand was not found to be suitable for modern times. Its depressing concrete environment is too harsh for being current accommodation. While the brutal is returning in fashion and architecural geritage left behind by Soviet Union has never been so fashionable, still in 2013 dismantling of Robin Hood Garden started. A novelty back then is a step and experience, which was overcome and probably it will be replaced with a modern vision of beautiful architecture.
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili
( Written during Nick Shavishvili’s masters degree course )
English Edit: Nutsa Namoradze