Ernö Goldfinger (1902–87)

Erno Goldfinger was one of the pioneers of the modern movement in architect. His career spanned several countries, and he profoundly influenced patterns of social housing. 

He was born in Budapest but left Hungary with his family in 1919 to settle in Gstaad. He then studied in Paris with Leon Janssdy, the town planner, and Auguste Perret, a pioneer of concrete construction. He came to know many of the leaders of the Modern Movement, Max Ernst, Robert Delannay, with whom he collaborated on film set designs, Adolf Loos, and Le Corbusier, with whom he helped to organise the Congres International d’Architecture Moderne held in Athens in 1933.

In 1927 he visited London to design a shop for Helena Rubinstein, the perfume manufacturer, which was said to be the first Modernist shop in the city. He settled permanently in London late in 1934 and designed the children’s section of the British pavilion at the Paris Exhibition of 1937. In that year he built a terrace of three houses at Willow Road, Hampstead, one of which was acquired by the National Trust and opened to the public in 1996.

During the Second World War he worked chiefly on exhibitions on social and economic themes intended principally for the armed forces. He became a British citizen in 1945. His subsequent work included offices for the Communist Party and the Daily Worker newspaper, a large block of government offices at the Elephant and Castle, and two extensive social housing projects which each had at its centre a 30-storey tower with vertical circulation towers alongside. 

His work was marked by meticulous attention to the quality of building materials and to craftsmanship in their application. His Trellich Tower near Paddington Station is now listed and regarded as a highly desirable place in which to live.