Hungarian architect Ernő Goldfinger is perhaps best known for his initially under-appreciated modernist tower blocks, oversized surrounds to his windows, and use of exposed surfaces. A true Brutalist, his work has only lately been recognised as elegant and picturesque. Contrasting with the uniform Victorian buildings of the area, his personally-designed family home in North London - complete with his impressive collection of artworks - serves as a testament to his taste and skill, and will prove interesting to anyone with an interest in design.
2 Willow Road is an apt landmark to the modern avant-garde artistic community that congregated in Hampstead in the 1930s. Counting the likes of Walter Gropius, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo amongst its residents, the Goldfingers regularly hosted many social gatherings of artists and intellectuals from the area who gathered in the rooms of their unusual modernist house. And whilst the building stands out against the usual Victorian-style houses of Hampstead, Goldfinger's house serves as an excellent visual reminder of the creativity and innovation that has always been drawn to the area, which in some ways is as much about the people who met there as the architectural merit of the house itself.
It is interesting to observe how such an influential architect as Ernő Goldfinger might chose to design his own personal space: unconstrained by a brief or a client's taste, he was able to exercise his ideas throughout all areas of its design. Initially, the house appears understated with all the rooms opening onto a central spiral staircase, and the whole building finished in exposed brick and wood, employing utility and economic use of space. Looking closer, what is so enjoyable about this house is the unusual subtle features of Goldfinger's design, and each room is individually suited to its function. Ursula Goldfinger's studio has a small in-built stage, with storage underneath, for her life models to pose upon, and the children's rooms interconnect with moveable screen doors and retractable beds. And the house is furnished with careful designs by the architect, including roll-top sliding cupboards and a dining room table held up by an industrial beam. There are many details for those with an interest in architecture to appreciate, but also much for anyone interested in design or the features of their own homes to admire and desire.
An additional layer to this house is Goldfinger's vast art collection, a good selection of which covers the walls of the house. A Bridget Riley hangs in the dining room, accompanied by work from Ernst Marx and Henry Moore's sculpture and painting throughout the rest of the house. Objects of interest cover the surfaces of the sideboards and windowsills and shelves are full of the family's own choice of books. In Goldfinger's office you can see his collection of architectural magazine and filing of work for RIBA. This offers an extremely intimate view into the life of the architect, and there are not many houses of notable figures that can allow you to gaze upon their personal preserved bookshelves.
Upstairs, in what was the children's room, hangs a photograph taken by Simon Terrill of Goldfinger's Balfron Tower in the East End of London. Once a dangerous and run-down place to live, the block has since been granted Grade II listed status and revamped - anyone wishing to visit the building now has to sign in at a reception desk. This large photograph makes the appropriate timeless statement, that what is considered ugly or unpleasant in contemporary design might well eventually find appreciation as beautiful and innovative by later generations. And now that Goldfinger's work is receiving a closer look, 2 Willow Road provides an excellent example of the architect's vision, detailing and design to be admired.
This unique Modernist home was designed by architect Ernö Goldfinger in 1939 for himself and his family. With surprising design details that were groundbreaking at the time and still feel fresh today, the house also contains the Goldfingers' impressive collection of modern art, intriguing personal possessions and innovative furniture. Note: nearest toilet at local pub.
- Join a guided tour.
- Or explore on your own between 3 and 5.
- See a special exhibition about Goldfinger's designs for children.
Goldfinger conceived the design for 1-3 Willow Road as both a functional home for his growing family and as an opportunity to explore his talents as an architect.
Many of the Goldfingers' friends were leading figures in the art world, who offered varied and often personal examples of their work to the collection.
Now on show throughout 2 Willow Road, these works help paint a vivid picture of the social and creative life of the architect and his wife. A number of the key European artist of the twentieth century are represented in the house.
2 Willow Road2 Willow Road, Hampstead
London Greater London United Kingdom NW3 1TH
This unique Modernist home was designed by architect Ernö Goldfinger in 1939 for himself and his family.
3 March - 4 November 2012:
Bank Holiday Mondays: 11:00-14:00
Last admission 30 minutes before closing.