Prod. B.S. Johnson
Television can be a cruel medium, sometimes deliberately through malicious direction and camera work, or sometimes because the subject before the lens just doesn't fit comfortably into the aesthetic conventions of the small screen.
Peter and Alison Smithson, the dynamic duo of postwar New Brutalist British architecture, can be seen struggling here as they are afflicted by both B.S. Johnson's raw cinéma vérité style - tight static close-ups, stark colour - and a personal awkwardness in front of the camera - an oddly halting diction, an uncertain evasive gaze, Expressionist make-up and too much lower front dental work. Hey, now it's my turn to be cruel! We must award 10/10 for effort on their wardrobe. Peter's pattern shirt and rhinestone tie combo and Alison's futuristic silver astro-bondage blouse seem like a distinct attempt to ape the young fashions they no longer quite suit, but I like it.
The 'streets in the sky' utopian vision seems appealing at first but the monotone delivery of the upbeat pitch eventually gives way to tedious moaning about the lack of respect tenants have for their building.
Perhaps the vandalism they complain of illustrates that well-intended design can only go so far in creating a better society, when their middle class professional frustrations confront working class poverty, ignorance and mass unemployment.
Despite campaigns by residents who loved the place and modernist preservationists, the upkeep and repair of the buildings were deemed too expensive and demolition work began on Robin Hood Gardens last year to make way for residential developments for City workers at neighbouring Canary Wharf. Another victory for Mammon - I wonder what the Smithsons or Johnson would say?