Ernő Goldfinger (1902–1987) was a Hungarian-born architect renowned for his significant contributions to modernist architecture in the 20th century. Born on September 11, 1902, in Budapest, Hungary, Goldfinger's career spanned several decades and left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape.
Early Life and Education: Ernő Goldfinger was born into a prosperous Jewish family, and his early exposure to art and culture laid the foundation for his future career in architecture. In 1921, he moved to Paris, where he studied architecture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts and apprenticed under Auguste Perret, a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete.
Emigration to England: In 1934, amid the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, Goldfinger, along with his wife Ursula, sought refuge in England. His move coincided with a burgeoning interest in modernist architecture in the country.
Architectural Career: Goldfinger quickly established himself in the British architectural scene, adopting modernist principles that emphasized functionality, efficiency, and a break from traditional ornamentation. His early projects, such as the Balfron Tower in London (1967), showcased his commitment to creating innovative, socially conscious housing solutions. Hill Pasture was the first house Erno Goldfinger built in England following his arrival from Paris in November 1934. It is really his first house anywhere because the studio built at Cucq in 1933 scarcely qualifies as a house. Goldfinger's actual practice was limited to shops, exhibition stands, and apartment interiors. He had hoped for patronage from his wife's family when he came to England, but nothing was built, and most of his work came as a 'spin off' either of his own efforts in design for children, or from his Grafton Street Helena Rubenstein Salon, designed from Paris in 1927-8.
One of Goldfinger's most famous works is 2 Willow Road (1939), a house he designed for himself and his family in Hampstead, London. This residence has since become a symbol of modernist architecture and is open to the public as a museum.
Perhaps his most controversial project was the design and construction of the Trellick Tower in London (1972). While praised for its bold design and innovative features, the building initially faced criticism for its association with social housing issues. Over time, however, Trellick Tower has become an iconic example of Brutalist architecture. The Commission for Hill Pasture, a diminutive one bedroom studio bungalow in an extensive landscape garden, came to him though an assistant, Gerald Flower. In his own published pamphlet The sensation of Space, Goldfinger links the design of Hill Pasture forward to his exhibition pavilion for the This is Tomorrow show at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1956.
Legacy: Ernő Goldfinger's impact on modernist architecture is immeasurable. His commitment to functional design, efficient use of space, and experimentation with new materials influenced subsequent generations of architects. Despite facing criticism during his career, Goldfinger's contributions have been reevaluated, and his work is now celebrated for its lasting influence on the architectural landscape.
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. (1979). Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Yale University Press.
- Darley, Gillian. (2016). Villages of Vision: A Study of Strange Utopias. Old Street Publishing.
- "Ernő Goldfinger." The Twentieth Century Society. [https://c20society.org.uk/c20-churches/erno-goldfinger/]
- "Goldfinger, Ernő." RIBA. [https://www.architecture.com/image-library/RIBApix/gallery-product/file/goldfinger-ern%C3%B6/trellick-tower-london-1982.html]