Hannah Penwarden is a Part 1 Architecture graduate from Brighton, UK. She completed her undergraduate studies at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in 2020.  She has previously worked in The Netherlands. 

Email: hannahlucypenwarden@gmail.com

Exhibiting the Fragment

Architecture MA (Hons) Dissertation

‘To select and put forward any item for display, as something worth looking at, as interesting, is a statement not only about the object but about the culture it came from… there is no exhibition without construction and therefore – in an extended sense – appropriation’.

– Michael Baxandall, Exhibiting Intention: Some precondition of the Visual Display of Culturally Purposeful Objects.


Michael Baxandall, "Exhibiting Intention: Some Preconditions of the Visual Display of Culturally Purposefull Objects," in Exhibiting Cultures: The poetics and politics of museum display ed. Ivan Karp and Steven Lavine (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 34.


The focus of this dissertation is the recent acquisition of a fragment of Robin Hood Gardens by the Victoria and Albert Museum. This dissertation aims to examine the cultural implications of this act of acquisition following the partial demolition of Robin Hood Gardens, a Post War Brutalist housing estate located in Poplar, East London.

In order to fully understand and explore the implications of both acquiring and exhibiting a fragment of the estate, the fragment is first defined. The author briefly explores the history of Brutalism in Post-War Britain and the work of the architects Alison and Peter Smithson before addressing the current Brutalist critical revival. The decision to demolish Robin Hood Gardens is representative of broader changes within London where the regeneration of large council estates is arguably contributing to the social cleansing of the city. The fragment, as a piece taken from the demolition site, is therefore representative of a claim over the Brutalist form, closely associated with a working class identity.

The author then explores the implications of exhibiting a fragment of architecture within a museum setting. Through investigation of the role of the ‘the collector’ and ‘the curator’ this dissertation aims to highlight the highly orchestrated and historically political setting of the museum. The acquisition of the fragment by a major museum is therefore shown to be not a neutral act but one which is deeply entrenched within contemporary discussions of economic and cultural privilege that are present with Britain today.