This is a very short response to the acquisition of a part of Robin Hood Gardens by the V&A museum. An ex-council housing estate, being demolished. I am horrified that a section will be displayed in the V&A galleries – once the social housing’s been demolished and the working-class residents have been scattered.
This is an imagined narrative by Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, political parachutist and Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds…
We thought it would be a rather super idea to acquire a piece of that simply wonderfully architectural design object, Robin Hood Gardens? Didn’t cost much. The fellow at the local council said a contribution to the cost of demolition (sorry, careful extraction) of the flats would suffice. Jolly reasonable. Lovely chap. Labour, you know? Mind you old New Labour, not new old Labour. Tony was such a generous chap – at least to me. Worked for him at Millbank Tower in the “things can only get better” days. Lovely. He really helped us out back then. Standing there on the Aylesbury Estate declaring war on council tenants and social housing. Pathfinder, that was it. New Labour slum clearance. It was the people that made them slums, not the architecture. Brutalism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but, golly, it’s worth its weight in gold now! My chums over at Tower Hamlets are all over Brutalism. Raking it in. (Well the developers are anyway.) And now I’ve jumped ship to take over the reins here, I thought we should have a piece of that.
One of our curators likened the flat to a Rubik’s Cube! [Guffaw, guffaw.] I’m not sure about that but it’s wonderful. It’ll look splendid in our new galleries on our glorious Queen Elizabeth Park site. Different council, same ethos. They know how to do gentrification (oh, I mean regeneration – must be politically correct). I mean what better way to get rid of the poor than to kick them out, knock down their houses, knock down their factories, knock down their smelly pubs and replace them with civilised types – creatives, I believe they’re called.
The creatives love a little bit of perfectly packaged nostalgia. Can you imagine what the flat will look like when we rebuild it in our new gallery? Apparently, one will even be able to walk in through the original front door. All original fixtures and fittings. We’ll wash the old dirt off, of course. Lovely. It’ll be like “streets in the sky” revisited; preserved. Thank God we had the decency to salvage a bit of it. People will be able to experience what it was like to live in social housing for years to come. Perhaps we should get invigilators to dress like common people and do whatever common people do? A peppering of asylum seekers, refugees? Maybe jellied eels and pie, mask and liquor for the new café menu. What do you think? Lovely. Simply lovely. Thank God for us!
Oh, yes. Lots of planning to do. Dear goodness, this launch party will be something special! Chamber music, champers and hors d’oeuvres. Guest list will be tricky. Great and good will be simply champing at the bit to see this little bit of the great unwashed. What an absolute steal! What a steal! Bravo chaps. Let’s get our scouts (oops, I mean education and outreach teams) out into more of these places. Plenty more working-class trophies to be had… Chop, chop!
More champagne anyone?