2 Willow Road (Goldfinger House)

2 Willow Road Hampstead London NW3 1TH

2 Willow Road caused quite a stir when it was acquired and opened by the National Trust. For this is a 1939 modernist building, designed and constructed by the architect Erno Goldfinger for his family, in what at the time was a shockingly brutalist style. It was Goldfinger’s home until his death in 1987 and has been maintained with his purpose-built furniture and fittings, as well as many of his pictures and possessions. From the outside it seems a modest, almost unprepossessing building – one part of a block encompassing three modern houses – but the brilliance of Goldfinger’s rational vision and exacting eye for detail becomes ever more impressive as you move through the house. Goldfinger later became a wealthy, successful architect, but at the time he was a Hungarian refugee with a family to support – and money was tight. The house makes extraordinarily thoughtful use of space and light, with its moveable partitions and folding doors enabling flexible use. It also has a fascination as a time capsule, a postwar Hampstead architect’s home with everything down to the coffee packets still in place on the kitchen shelves. Leave yourself a good hour for the tour and introductory film.

Goldfinger was a controversial architect in his time – and remains most famous for the widely-loathed Alexander Fleming House at Elephant and Castle – and for Ian Fleming, a Hampstead neighbour, adopting his name for the villain in his James Bond novel. Fleming loathed Goldfinger, personally and for his creation of this house, which involved knocking down a row of Victorian cottages. Goldfinger even tried to stop publication of the book – to which Fleming responded by suggesting a name change to ‘Goldprick’.

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