Will this three-storey slice of British brutalism be the hit of the Venice Biennale?

It was meant to spark a high-rise revolution. But it ended up as rubble. Is this salvaged chunk of Robin Hood Gardens, about to be unveiled at the Venice Biennale, all that’s left of bold social housing in Britain?

‘A building under assembly,” wrote architects Alison and Peter Smithson in 1976, “is a ruin in reverse.” These words, now deeply ironic, accompanied their entry to the Venice Biennale, which consisted of a billboard-size photograph of their latest project: Robin Hood Gardens, a housing estate in east London. Alongside this was a bench modelled on the concrete fins that gave their buildings such a distinctively ribbed texture.

It’s almost as if the Smithsons knew that, 42 years later, their project would now be back at the Venice Biennale as a ruin – in the form of a three-storey chunk that was salvaged from the controversial housing scheme in the district of Poplar, when demolition began last year.

I enjoyed living there but the council hated it. They gave up doing repairs and it was left to rot

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