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Kois Miah At Robin Hood Gardens

May 20, 2019
by the gentle author

Local resident and photographer Kois Miah visited families during the final years of Robin Hood Gardens and took these portraits, capturing the dignity of their existence in an estate condemned by many as a brutalist eyesore. “Whatever they think, there’s a huge sense of community here,” Kois admitted to me.

An exhibition of Kois Miah’s pictures entitled LIVED BRUTALISM opens next  Thursday 22nd May and runs until 8th June at Four Corners Gallery, 121 Roman Rd, E2 0QN

Moyna Miah and his grandchildren, 9th April 2015

Del and Gaby, 13th September 2014

Samir Uddin and his children, 13th September 2015

Evening Rain, West Building, 1st September 2015

Taurus Miah, 9th April 2015

East Building, 24th June 2015

Summer fun day, 19th August 2014

Pat, 13th September 2015

Adrienne Sargent, 15th August 2016

Poplar High St, 31st March 2015

Jim, Caretaker, 23rd July 2014

West face of east building, 28th May 2016

Joanne, 28th May 2016

Mr & Mrs Hoque, 13th September 2015

On the balcony of the east building, 15th November 2015

Photographs copyright © Kois Miah

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. May 20, 2019

    Excellent reportage and genuine portraiture

  2. Jill Wilson permalink
    May 20, 2019

    Great photos and I recommend reading the earlier blogs about the estate by Delwar Hussein which give a very good picture of the pros and cons of living there.

  3. May 20, 2019

    Thank you, Kois Miah and Gentle Author. I was so moved by these beautiful portraits – a lovely tribute to those who lived there, and to lives both ordinary and important.

  4. Victoria Cooper permalink
    May 20, 2019

    I always marvel at the human capacity to form a community in the unlikeliest places. Far from London, admittedly, but I remember being at a lurcher show. Basically a field – but they put up a strand of orange tape and congregated around it and it buzzed. At the end of the show it was removed and there reappeared the empty, silent field.

  5. Malcolm permalink
    May 20, 2019

    The problem with Robin Hood Gardens was that it was designed to fit a theory that was not only Utopian but also completely flawed in its desire to bend human beings to its will. Alison and Peter Smithson were disciples of Le Corbusier’s doctrine of “The house is a machine for living in” and everything they designed – although few of their designs were built – followed this ideology. Alison Smithson can be seen and heard talking about how people would fit into her overall design doctrine for Robin Hood Gardens as if they were simply units of architectural detail. What she couldn’t comprehend, or countenance in any way, was that housing schemes like Robin Hood Gardens and the notorious Park Hill in Sheffield, had contributed to the vandalism that defaced these new Utopias. She referred to “the violent consumer” and “the wild human animals” and feared that these were the kind of people who would be housed in Robin Hood Gardens. She was right because within four years Robin Hood Gardens had become vandalised and was already falling into disrepair, mainly because people hated the place. The Smithson’s built projects were limited and only a few of their dismal buildings remain. The depressingly ugly Economist building in St James’s being one of them. Robin Hood Gardens was both their highpoint and their swansong. After this their few built projects in the UK were additions to Bath University and St Hilda’s university. Their careers fizzled out and, apart from a few commissions in Germany, they ended up working as lecturers, which was comically apt for a couple who spent more time talking about their ideas and theories than they did actually designing anything of merit. There are many architects who cry, wail and wring their hands over the demolition of Robin Hood Gardens, having failed to get this concrete excrescence listed. It is sad that those who live there now are being moved out, like the old East-Enders who were forced to move during the 1960’s and 1970’s. But Robin Hood Gardens was nothing more than an experiment in which people were simply regarded as laboratory mice.

  6. Eric Forward permalink
    May 20, 2019

    Great comments Malcolm, very insightful. Never thought of it as a failed experiment, but that seems to make sense. Brutalist by design and also nature. I lived near it in Poplar for a while and it was an intimidating area to walk past. Does that in itself not indicate that indeed it was a failure of design? People don’t like change but we can do better than this.

  7. Ian Silverton permalink
    May 22, 2019

    Just cannot believe any UK Goverment allows people to still live in places like this,I’m really shocked by these pictures,thought we lived in squalor back in the 1950s East End but it’s still going on,poor people different generation,so bad,makes me very sad to see.

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