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Are these buildings concrete boxes or a thing of beauty?

Certain styles of architecture are prone to creating divisions and disagreements. They are what some people would describe as “Marmite”. You either love them or you hate them.

Brutalism is one of those jarring styles, with its concrete boxes and upside down ziggurats.

You can guarantee that when a Brutalist building is set to be demolished, there will be people shouting on both sides of the argument.

Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar is a case in point. Designed by architects Alison and Peter Smithson in the 1960s and completed in 1972, it’s considered by some to be one of the most important post-war social housing developments in Britain. Others are keen to see it destroyed.

It’s irrelevant what people think now, because it is set to be demolished and replaced with 1,575 new homes, commercial properties and community facilities.

But what is interesting, is that another Brutalist block, just four miles away is thriving.

The Barbican is regularly voted London’s ugliest building, but its penthouses sell for more than £4m. Designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, who were influenced by Le Corbusier, it’s a concrete tower on a lush, green estate, maintained by a private landlord.

A stone’s throw away, Robin Hood Gardens has some innovative features, such as the deflecting acoustic walls that make the central garden space more peaceful than you would expect with the major roads surrounding the estate.

But it is crumbling and would need heavy investment to save it. Campaigners fought to get the estate listed, but they failed, the residents have been evicted and it will be demolished soon.

There is not much public appetite for saving Brutalist buildings. Last year Birmingham’s iconic concrete library was demolished to make way for offices (the books had already been moved to the new library building).

Once described by Prince Charles as looking like “a place where books are incinerated, not kept” it was a building that split opinion. Chris Smith, who was director of planning at Historic England at the time, said the public would regret the decision in 40 years.

He said the city centre was losing its most interesting architecture, as the buildings of famed architect John Madin are being bulldozed.

What do you think? Should we be keeping these Brutalist buildings? Or should we accept that their time has passed?

I’d enjoy hearing your opinion, and if you need any help from myself or my team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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