Zaha Hadid has made an impassioned plea to the government to list Robin Hood Gardens, promising to write to prime minister Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah Brown as well as architecture minister Margaret Hodge before its fate is decided.

Alongside fellow leading architects including Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, Hadid has already signed BD’s petition to save the Smithsons-designed estate.

However, in an exclusive interview this week ahead of today’s closing date for representations to Hodge, the world’s most famous woman architect revealed her distress at the prospect of the “heroic” piece of architecture being lost.

Hadid knows the east London estate well, and has taken AA students to visit it as part of their studies. “The Smithsons were very, very important — Robin Hood Gardens is our only Unité,” she said.

“We don’t have another building like it. There weren’t many slab blocks built in that period, and RHG is particularly interesting because of the enclosed “streets” and the public space.

“I look around London and all I see is buildings from this era — slab blocks that are either being pulled down or defaced, which means the city is slowly losing its transparency. It’s terrible Pimlico School has gone, but this is a rare project. It is part of the English brutalism which is very different from that of other countries, which have looked after their buildings.”

She said there was still the opportunity for the estate to be “looked after”, and that any refurbishment should be sensitive to its original concept. “The intervention needs to be gentle so it doesn’t interfere very much,” she added.

Hadid is writing to Sarah Brown because they are acquaintances through Brown’s patronage of the Maggie’s Centres.

Hadid's full letter

Dear Margaret,

Petition for Robin Hood Gardens

With the decision to potentially demolish Robin Hood Gardens imminent, I would like to personally petition for the retention and listing of this internationally renowned, architecturally important building.

Robin Hood Gardens is a seminal project of socially responsible architecture from the era of Utopian thinking, and one of the few executed works of Alison and Peter Smithson and their only built example of public housing. The Smithsons were the first architects of 20th Century Britain to make a hugely significant contribution to world architectural discourse, and Alison Smithson still remains one of the few built female architects.

I understand that reports now detail the economic benefits to renovating Robin Hood Gardens over demolition. I urge you to seriously consider listing the buildings for future generations, as it would be a tragedy to lose this national landmark.

Yours sincerely,

Zaha Hadid