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Ernő Goldfinger
Personal information
Name Ernő Goldfinger
Nationality Hungarian
Birth date November 11, 1902(1902-11-11)
Birth place Budapest, Hungary
Date of death November 15, 1987 (aged 85)
Place of death London, England
Alma mater École nationale supérieure des beaux arts
Buildings 2 Willow Road
Alexander Fleming House
Balfron Tower
Carradale House
Trellick Tower
Glenkerry House

Ernő Goldfinger (November 11, 1902 – November 15, 1987) was a Hungarian-born architect and designer of furniture, and a key member of the architectural Modern Movement after he had moved to the United Kingdom.



Goldfinger was born in Budapest. The family business was forestry and saw-mills. This led Goldfinger to consider a career in engineering, until he became interested in architecture after reading Hermann Muthesius's Das englische Haus. He continued to recommend the book (a description of English domestic architecture around the turn of the century) for most of his life.

In 1921 Goldfinger moved to Paris after the collapse, following World War I, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1923 he went to study at the École nationale supérieure des beaux arts in the atelier of Léon Jaussely, and in the following years got to know many other Paris based architects including Auguste Perret, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. In 1929, before finishing his course, Goldfinger established a partnership and worked on a number of interior designs and an extension to a holiday home at Le Touquet.

He was strongly influenced by the publication of Le Corbusier's Vers une architecture, and became a fervent admirer of Le Corbusier's former mentor, Auguste Perret, an expert in designing reinforced concrete structures. This would later be an inspiration for Goldfinger when designing his own home.


1-3 Willow Road

In the early 1930s Goldfinger met and married Ursula Blackwell, heiress to the Crosse & Blackwell fortune. They moved to a flat in Highpoint I, London in 1934. Before World War II, Goldfinger built only his own house (and two others) at 1-3 Willow Road in Hampstead, North London, and another at Broxted, Essex. His own house, 2 Willow Road, is now in the care of the National Trust.


After the war, Goldfinger was commissioned to build new offices for the Daily Worker newspaper and the headquarters of the British Communist Party. He also built Alexander Fleming House at Elephant and Castle in south-east London for the Ministry of Health. In the 1950s he designed two London primary schools from prefabricated pre-cast concrete with brick infill for the London County Council, one of which in Putney was considerably damaged by a rogue developer who was prosecuted for the damage in 2007 and failing to restore it in 2008.

The Trellick Tower

A discussion about Ernő with Ursula Goldfinger's cousin on a golfcourse prompted Ian Fleming to name the James Bond adversary and villain Auric Goldfinger after Ernő. (Fleming had previously been among the objectors to the pre-war demolition of the cottages in Hampstead that were removed to make way for Goldfinger's house at 2 Willow Road.) Goldfinger consulted his lawyers when the book was published in 1959 (which prompted Fleming to threaten to rename the character 'Goldprick') but eventually decided not to sue; Fleming's publishers agreed to pay his costs and gave him six free copies of the book.[1]

Goldfinger was a serious man, given to notorious rages. He sometimes fired his assistants if they were inappropriately jocular, and once forcibly ejected two prospective clients for imposing restrictions on his design.[2]

In an attempt to solve the huge shortage of housing in the country following World War II, in which nearly 4 million houses had been destroyed or damaged,[3] the British Government began to see high-rise buildings as a solution, and Goldfinger rose to prominence in England as a designer of tower blocks.

Among his most notable buildings of the period were Balfron Tower, 27 floors high (north of the Blackwall Tunnel, in Poplar in the East End London Borough of Tower Hamlets), and the adjacent eleven-storey Carradale House. These served as models for the design of the similar 31-floor Trellick Tower (in North Kensington; started 1968, completed 1972). Although Goldfinger enjoyed living in his own buildings, they were unpopular both among both the public and many post-modernist architects.

Towards the end of the 20th century Goldfinger's work has become more appreciated. Trellick Tower is now a Grade II* listed building and has become something of a design icon, appearing on t-shirts, paintings and in the lyrics of a song by Blur. The few privately owned flats within fetch high prices at sale. Balfron Tower and Carradale House are also listed Grade II, while an adjacent building by Goldfinger's studio, the 14-storey Glenkerry House, is run as a housing co-operative and is regarded as a model for management of buildings of the type.


Goldfinger died in 1987, four days after his 85th birthday, and was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium where his ashes remain.

Buildings by Ernő Goldfinger

See also



  • Ernő Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect by Nigel Warburton (Routledge, 2004; ISBN 0415258537).

External links

External links



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