Auric and Erno

My reading matter for the Overground journey to Hampstead Heath Rail Station is David Kynaston’s “A World to Build: Austerity Britain 1945-48”. In Chapter II, “Broad Vistas and All That”, he notes George Orwell’s view of the suburbs:

“In his last pre war novel, “Coming Up for Air”, he wrote contemptuously of “long, long rows of little semi detached houses”, of “the stucco front, the creosoted gate, the privet hedge, the green front door”…”.

The Ham & High of 10 April 2013 recounts:

“In the mid 1930s Orwell found himself working part time in a bookshop in Hampstead, called Booklover’s Corner, situated where Pond Street and South End Road meet. The shop was run by a relaxed couple, the Westropes, who gave him accommodation at their home in Warwick Mansions, Pond Street. Orwell shared the job with the journalist Jon Kimche (1909-1994), who also lodged with the Westropes, and was only required to work in the afternoons, leaving the mornings free for writing and the evenings for social activity. It was during this period that he met his wife to be, Eileen, and wrote his third novel, “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” (1936).”.

By 7th February, 1947, Orwell could write an approving review of Peter Hunot’s “Man About the House” that noted the author “does not, like the author of another book in my possession, tell you how to mend Venetian blinds while ignoring electrical fittings.”.

In the interests of raising a breakfast bowl of coffee to Orwell’s memory, I walk five minutes from the station to “Le Pain Quotidien”, the current occupant of the former bookshop’s premises.

Another seven minutes by foot brings me to 1-3, Willow Road. The Historic England entry tells us that, of this terrace by Erno Goldfinger, “No. 2 has the largest and most important interior, surviving with a richness of detailing as continually evolved by Goldfinger himself, who lived there until his death in 1987, and his artist wife Ursula…This terrace replaced an C18 row of cottages in what Goldfinger called “an adaptation of C18 style”, based on a hierarchy of spaces that follows the Classical divisions; basement, piano nobile and attic.”.

John Ezard wrote for the Guardian in 2005 of :

“The story of Erno Goldfinger’s vehement reaction when the author Ian Fleming appropriated his name – and aspects of his character- with deliberate savagery for the villain and title of the James Bond novel…when Erno’s business associate Jacob Blacker was asked for his opinion….he told Erno ironically that he could find only one substantial difference: “You’re called Erno and he’s called Auric.”

Erno Goldfinger was one of the 20th century’s prime advocates of London tower blocks. He designed the often reviled Alexander Fleming House at the Elephant and Castle, Trellick Tower in Ladbroke Grove and Balfron Tower in Tower Hamlets.

One story explaining Fleming’s animosity is that he lived for a time in Hampstead and disliked Erno’s design for….Willow Road….Fleming knew of Erno through a golfing friend who was related to Erno’s wife.”.

On the release in 2016 of the film “High Rise”, based on J G Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name, Oliver Wainwright wrote the Guardian’s architecture column for Sunday 13th March. He observes in the film “strains too of the otherworldly, angular concrete forms of London’s Thamesmead estate (itself used as a set for “A Clockwork Orange”)…..Other shots recall the walkways of the Balfron Tower, whose architect, Ernö Goldfinger, lived on the 24th floor of his masterpiece for a while, just like (the character Anthony) Royal…..The experiment lasted two months, before the architect and his wife retreated to their Hampstead nest on Willow Road.”.

Kynaston recounts in Chapter VII, “Glad to Sit at Home”, how the young J G Ballard arrived in Southampton in Spring 1946, having spent most of the war in a Japanese civilian camp, and travelled via London to relatives in Birmingham. Many years later he recalled the prevailing mindset:

“It was impossible to have any kind of dialogue about the rights and wrongs of the National Health Service, which was about to come in, they talked as if this Labour government was an occupying power, that the Bolsheviks had arrived and were to strip them of everything they owned.”.

Chapter VI, “Farewell Squalor”, records that Goldfinger, “ultra modernist and left wing”, received a commission just after the war to convert a bomb damaged Victorian warehouse in Farringdon into new premises for the Communist Party’s newspaper, the “Daily Worker”:

“The end result won many architectural plaudits, but the journalists who had to work there every day soon identified two major flaws: the unpleasantly noisy main newsroom, built in a pioneering open plan style, and the very low toilets, unrepentantly justified by Goldfinger on the grounds that the nearer one got to squatting Continental fashion over elephant’s feet, the more complete the bowel evacuation. “The journalists,” according to his biographer, “were not convinced.”.

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