2 Willow Road

Hampstead

London NW3 1TH

 

Ernö Goldfinger 1939

 

2 Willow Road is one of three properties completed in 1939, set within a mid–century modern terrace block designed by Ernö Goldfinger. The property borders Hampstead Heath in north London, an area in what was at the time a mecca for progressive artists and writers. Having moved to London five years previously, Goldfinger designed this property as a private home for his young family.

 

 

Goldfinger is perhaps best known for designing Trellick Tower, a social housing project in West London built in the Brutalist style of architecture. In contrast, 2 Willow Road, built well before Trellick Tower was conceived, conveys elegance more akin to the earlier Bauhaus school of design. Constructed of a concrete frame and supported by columns, a flat roof and large picture windows facing the street, the property when first proposed was immediately contentious within a neighbourhood of period villas.

 

 

Furthermore Goldfinger's plans called for the demolition of 4 small cottages in order to realise the scheme. Ian Fleming, one neighbour vehemently against the design, so the story goes, went so far as to cast Goldfinger as the villain within his James Bond story of the same title. Nevertheless after several revisions the London County Council eventually granted approval in September 1937 and work was soon under way. What is immediately apparent when visiting the property is the lack of 'white', a common sight in architecture of the same era. Instead the front facade is largely clad in brick in an attempt to blend the property within the streetscape. Concrete is used with constraint to express the underlying structure and load bearing members.

 

 

One lovely detail is the almost classical fluting on the concrete columns. Inside, movable partitions and folding doors are used throughout to allow flexible living space. This is particularly apparent on the first floor where the studio, dining and living room walls can all be moved to create one large open-plan area. As in other Bauhaus inspired homes, color and texture are widely used, and built-in storage is integrated where possible to retain the sense of pure volume.

 

The staircase itself is a work of art and the circular roof lights, particularly in the top-level bathroom, show a deep understanding of the use of natural light. Goldfinger used craftsmanship and attention to detail in order to make simple form appear beautiful.

 

The house, now part of the Natural Trust portfolio and open to the public, is retained as Goldfinger's home, with personal belongings and artwork scattered throughout and adorning the walls. It is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the great mid 20th century architects.

 


 

Jared Lockhart 2012

 


 

How to visit

 

The house is managed by the National Trust and open to the public.

 

To get there, take the Northern line tube to Hampstead. On leaving the station turn left onto Hampstead High Street. Walk downhill 100m until you see a National Trust signpost advertising the property. This directs you down a lane leading onto Willow Road.

 

The house is closed most Mondays and Tuesdays. Please check the very informative National Trust web site for times at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/2-willow-road.

 

 

 

 

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